Thomas Dumm


On his book Loneliness as a Way of Life

Cover Interview of December 16, 2008

A close-up

The book’s epilogue is entitled “Writing.”  It is short, about seven pages, but it tells a story about a trip I made to Ethiopia with my older brother, right before I started to write the book itself.  He wanted me to go with him in order to shake away the melancholy that had enveloped me in the two years since the death of my wife.  That trip helped me tremendously, but not in the way I thought it would.  Instead, it served to illuminate what a path through loneliness might be about, when we learn not to fight it, to try to overcome it, but to dwell with it, to appreciate its other elements.  I contrast my trip, which occurred during a period of political violence in Addis Ababa, with the admonition in Walden to practice what Thoreau called “home cosmography,” which I take to mean an exploration of how to be at home in the cosmos by writing about it.  For me, the epilogue ties things up in a way that isn’t too neat, but which nonetheless encourages further reflection by all of us on how we might move on in the face of loss.  And again, like my editor’s intervention with the title, this epilogue is there not because of any special insight on my part, but because one of the readers of the manuscript suggested that writing about writing might be a good way to show why and how the book has been written in such a way.