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At the Center of All Beauty

Solitude and the Creative Life

Fenton Johnson



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14 April 2020
Known for his lyrical prose and clear insight, Fenton Johnson explores what it means to be not single -meaningless outside of coupledom-but solitary, able to be alone, inclined to mine the treasures of inner life. Americans tend to celebrate fortress marriage, turning an equal right into an omnivorous expectation, marginalizing solitaries as odd, even potentially threatening. Johnson taps into an older tradition embodied by Trappist monks near the Kentucky home where he grew up, and by artists and writers including Paul CA (c)zanne, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Henry David Thoreau, Henry James, Eudora Welty, Zora Neale Hurston, Rod McKuen, Nina Simone, and Bill Cunningham. Johnson includes his parents, who in workshop or garden found places to be alone; married people, too, can be solitaries in spirit.

A hybrid of memoir, inspiration, social criticism, and celebration of the lives of great solitary artists, At the Center of All Beauty will resonate with anyone needing a break from the clamor of society.
By:   Fenton Johnson
Imprint:   Norton
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 218mm,  Width: 147mm,  Spine: 25mm
Weight:   366g
ISBN:   9780393608298
ISBN 10:   0393608298
Pages:   256
Publication Date:   14 April 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Fenton Johnson lives in San Francisco and Tucson but is often found hiking his native Kentucky. An award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction, he teaches at the University of Arizona and Spalding University, contributes to Harper's Magazine, and has been featured on Fresh Air.

Reviews for At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life

In this lyrical yet finely argued book, Johnson sets out to show that being alone - so different from loneliness, its direct opposite, in fact - is absolutely essential to the creative life...meticulous, loving prose. -- Kathryn Hughes - The New York Times A work of staggering tenderness, intelligence and beauty...a new vision of self, community and home. This achingly honest and gorgeously written book should come with a warning: It will change you. -- Harriet Lerner, PhD, author of The Dance of Anger I love Fenton Johnson's sensibility. It's a joy and a balm to see the world through his eyes-and to rediscover solitude as our deepest and most powerful source of creativity and spirituality, even for people who are coupled. -- Susan Cain, author of Quiet and Quiet Power A fluid pastiche of memoir, social critique, literary criticism, mystical insights, and philosophical reflections...poetic yet profoundly accessible. -- Brian Bromberger - The Bay Area Reporter In studies of the lives of beloved artists, and in beautiful meditations on his own life, Fenton Johnson encourages us to understand solitariness as consecration, a fecund, rich condition for the pursuit of beauty. Fenton Johnson's writing is so companionable and wise that it enacts what it converts sterile loneliness to creative solitude. -- Garth Greenwell, author of Cleanness and What Belongs to You A treasure that I didn't know I was looking for, one that unearthed and validated buried truths. This small book is incredible, both profound and humane...And yes, it is deeply beautiful. Fenton Johnson is one of our great writers. -- Rabih Alameddine, author of The Angel of History and An Unnecessary Woman Part memoir, part critical study of writers and artists, part queer manifesto, At the Center of All Beauty is about Fenton Johnson's effort to live deliberately, which in his case means alone... This is a beautifully written book... Reading At the Center of All Beauty, I came to see that each of us, single or coupled, has access to an interior life, a center of beauty, if only, as Johnson forcefully argues, we are not afraid of silence, of listening, of solitude, and what it has to teach us. -- Daniel Burr - The Gay and Lesbian Review

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