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Solitude: A Return to the Self Paperback – October 3, 2005

4.3 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Storr's celebration of creative solitude is a counterbalance to the chorus of self-help books extollng interpersonal relationships. This British psychotherapist links the capacity to be alone with self-discovery and becoming aware of one's deepest needs and feelings. Taking Goya, Kafka, Trollope, Kant and others as examples, he shows that solitude, far from being a flight from interpersonal contact, is an inveterate need, at least in some people. He analyzes extroverts who become depressives by losing themselves in the outer world and argues that fantasy is not inherently escapist, as Freud contended. The Jungian process of "individuation," he demonstrates, sheds light on the mature artistic forays of Beethoven, Brahms and Henry James. People need a sense of participating in a larger community than either family or friends can provide, and Storr's message is that the solitary's search for wholeness is a valid avenue to relatedness.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

British psychotherapist Storr takes issue with the predominate view in the West that intimate relationships are the exclusive source and measure of mental health and personal satisfaction. In this far-reaching work, he considers the impact of voluntary as well as enforced solitude, particularly on creative persons such as composers, writers, and philosophers. Their efforts take place chiefly in solitude, and Storr argues that solitude has restorative value for the ordinary individual as well. His intriguing analyses of figures such as Kafka, Kipling, Beatrix Potter, Beethoven, Newton, and Wittgenstein offer compelling evidence that individuals may achieve happiness and stability through their work, even when their interpersonal relationships are inferior. A book of substance; highly recommended. Cynthia Widmer, Williamstown, Mass.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reissue edition (October 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743280741
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743280747
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #283,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I have always been a solitary man, someone who likes to be alone, reading and writing, and who prefers solitude becasue I thrive in it. I've never had a ton of friends, and still don't, though I always had a few close ones. Some people say there is "something wrong" with me and that I need to get out more and be more social. Thing is, I don't find that satisfying. I find more satisfaction in solitude, reading and thinking and writing, than I do in "working the crowd." So prevalent were the voices of such critics that I often wondered if they were right; I also began to hate myself.

Mr. Storr's book, I'm glad to say, changed all that. Contrary to popular opinion, Mr. Storr says it's a sign of health if one can be alone for long periods of time; he also suggests that a person is deficient if he can't handle being alone and instead has to fill his life with friends, parties, lots of distractions, and the like.

The fact is, many great writers, philosophers, poets, musicians and artists were very solitary people with few or almost no deep, intimate personal relationships. The humanities would not be what they are had it not been for those solitary men and women who were alone a lot, people who were able to search deep into themselves and listen to what their souls were saying--in solitude. Large sections of Amazon.com, the college library, the fine art museum and symphony hall would not exist had it not been for the men and women in this book.

I can't recommend Mr. Storr's book enough.
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Format: Paperback
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QUESTION: what do these great achievers have in common: Isaac Newton (physicist), Fredrick Nietzche (philosopher), Rene Descarte (philosopher), Immanuel Kant (philosopher), and Blaise Pascal (mathematician and physicist)? ANSWER: they all made immense contributions to society. None of them married and most of them lived alone. All of them craved solitude.

This is the kind of interesting information you'll find in this book by noted psychiatrist Anthony Storr.

Storr peppers his book with useful observations and insights. Some of my favorites include the following:

1) "Many human beings make so with relationships which cannot be regarded as especially close, and not all such human beings are ill or particularly unhappy."
2) "With few exceptions, psychotherapists have omitted to consider the fact that the capacity to be alone is also an aspect of emotional maturity."
3) "Those who are not too dependent upon, or too closely involved with, others, find it easier to ignore convention [and thus do not fear being original]."
4) "If we do not look at marriage as the principal source of happiness, fewer marriages world end in tears."
5) "Some of the most profound and healing psychological experiences individuals encounter take place internally, and are distantly related, if at all, to interaction with other human beings."
6) "The capacity to be alone is a sign of inner security rather than an expression of a withdrawn state."

Storr investigates the uses of solitude for ordinary people. For example, "the capacity to be alone is a valuable resource when changes of mental attitude are required."

This book is at its zenith when it explores the connection between solitude and creative personality.
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By A Customer on March 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
I am often called upon to defend my decision my decision to lead a relatively non-social life. Good manners prevent me from answering that I generally have more fun by myself than at parties or dinner out or weekend trips to the country. How relieved was I then to find this book!
Anthony Storr's Solitude renders eloquent arguments that a craving for solitude is not a pathology, but instead, for some people, is lifestyle. He pulls examples from history, limning a clear pattern from the lives of Kafka, Trollope, Wittgenstein, Henry James and others. Those interested in literary lives will certainly find new material in these profiles.
It is true that the book explores the role of solitude in the lives of creative people: "It may be the case that, the less a person feels himself to be embedded in a family and social nexus, the more he feels that he has to make his mark in individual fashion." Any artist, undiscovered or famous, will find solace in these pages. However, anyone who finds herself quite happily content living life solo will also find good company in these pages.
Ultimately, Storr concludes that the creative geniuses who lived lives of solitude have pushed up the bar of achievement for humankind. Most of us would agree after contemplating a world unenriched by Newton, Beethoven and Beatrix Potter (author of Peter Rabbit!).
Storr's book also offers a condensed and imminently readable history of psychoanalysis, with Freud and Jung as the main characters. Storr, to my mind, shows the initial insights into motivation that Freud had, insights that can still hold water today. Storr is also quick to point out how that history of psychoanalysis lead to today's misguided (and frankly, offensive) maxim that if one is not in a relationship, one needs to be in therapy to deal with the issues about why not. No thanks, I'd rather be by myself.
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