Here is another post from my previous blog, Loner’s Highway. In this case it’s a review of the book, Party of One – The Loner’s Manifesto, by Anneli Rufus.
What a book! It’s written with style and erudition, yet Ms Rufus comes across as if she’s sitting on the other side of a table from you, drinking coffee while she expounds on the subject of loners.
She has so much to say that she might have subtitled it The Loner’s Encyclopedia. What makes the book special though, and irresistible, and probably the reason why non-loners also read it, is her humor. Look at this:
Superman is a loner. Tarzan is a loner. Batman, Spider-man and Davy Crockett and Xena are loners. Elvis Presley tried to pass himself off as one. The Lone Ranger, Tonto not withstanding, was a loner. …… In the playground and the classroom and the office we are mocked and feared. The loner who goes home to feed his iguana when the rest of the Crate and Barrel staff goes out after work for beer is despised, not idolized. Yet on the screen, stage and page, it is a different story. Here we see heroic loners. Self-reliant, sexy loners. Rebels. Sages. Mages. Stars.
Humor in abundance, but the book also succeeds because Rufus tells the truth, hitting nails on the head over and over.
A blurb from the Los Angeles Times praising Ms Rufus’s writing says, “A magnificent if eccentric success.” That’s ironic, given that the book includes a chapter mocking the notion that loners are eccentric.
One problem when writing about non-loners, or non-shy people, is that there is no official word for them. Asperger/autistic people define them as ‘neurotypical’. I usually call them ‘social people’. Anneli Rufus calls them ‘the mob’.
Each time she does this, I say to myself, “That’s carrying it a bit far, isn’t it?” But as soon as I’ve had that thought, I start to smile. I can’t help it. Look at how she does it:
The mob wants friends along when doing errands, when working out at the gym, seeing a movie. The mob depends on advice. Eating alone in restaurants horrifies the mob, saddens the mob. embarrasses the mob. The mob wants friends ….. needs to be loved ….. or hated, with that conjoined fervor with which mobs face their enemies.
To those of us who grew up as loners, especially the shy ones, the social world has always had an air of organized crime about it. I mean, they’re so collective, and so uncaring. They ride roughshod over us, barely noticing that anyone is there. They trample on the sensitivity of non-shy people with impunity. So “the mob” is a pretty good description.
I have to give you another quote:
What the mob requires for its sanity is what whittles away relentlessly at ours. Because nonloners far outnumber us, their prescription for soundness of min stands as good medicine. Contact! Chat! Cell phones! Spending as few hours as possible alone! To us it is not medicine, but a dangerous drug at best – it numbs, it drains, it blinds, it depresses, it requires an extensive recovery. At worst it is a poison. If loners comprised the majority, we would decree our own prescription. Work at home! Turn of the ringer on your phone! Cross the street to avoid someone you know! It’s good for you.
Did I tell you Anneli Rufus is a genius? Writing like that doesn’t come easily, but she keeps it up all the way. Am I jealous? Of course. But, more important. I’m grateful that someone like her exists, and that things like these are being said.
I’m not about to write a loner’s encyclopedia. But both of my novels are about loners. Whether it’s 17 year-old Simon in the 23rd century trying to escape a galactic empire (Skol) or socially experienced but still socially avoidant Christopher Stone in the unsympathetic business-world of this century (The Birdcatcher), that’s where you’ll find my ideas at their best – with loners in action, in thought and deed.
There is much about Party of One that still needs to be said. I hope to include more in future posts.
Here is a link to the book at Amazon.com:
Here is a link to Anneli Rufus’s own web site: