The Loneliness Files
“I was blown away not only by the writing, but by the adventurous and expansive concept stretched out across these essays. The Loneliness Files has a real opportunity to reshape and redefine what a cohesive, braided, essay collection can be.”—Hanif Abdurraqib, Tin House Editor-at-Large
What does it mean to be a body behind a screen, lost in the hustle of an online world? In our age of digital hyper-connection, Athena Dixon invites us to consider this question with depth, heart, and ferocity, investigating the gaps that technology cannot fill and confronting a lifetime of loneliness.
Living alone as a middle-aged woman without children or pets and working forty hours a week from home, more than three hundred fifty miles from her family and friends, Dixon begins watching mystery videos on YouTube, listening to true crime podcasts, and playing video game walk-throughs just to hear another human voice. She discovers the story of Joyce Carol Vincent, a woman who died alone, her body remaining in front of a glowing television set for three years before the world finally noticed. Searching for connection, Dixon plumbs the depths of communal loneliness, asking essential questions of herself and all of us: How have her past decisions left her so alone? Are we, as humans, linked by a shared loneliness? How do we see the world and our place in it? And finally, how do we find our way back to each other?
Searing and searching, The Loneliness Files is a groundbreaking memoir in essays that ultimately brings us together in its piercing, revelatory examination of how and why it is that we break apart.
An indelible portrait of contemporary isolation that soothes and slices with the same steady hand.
The rare exploration of internet existence that sounds like it has something urgent to say.
—The Millions, A Most Anticipated Book of 2023
With lyrical, memorable prose, Dixon cracks open the fear of not being remembered. . . . Her story is not only relatable, but significant, as she creates a sense of comfort for anyone who feels a little lonely sometimes. An honest and captivating investigation into human connection within an increasingly digital world.
Moving and lyrical.
Dixon’s searing vulnerability shines.
—The Amsterdam News
Athena Dixon is my favorite sort of writer: Startlingly direct, vulnerable, and astonishingly honest. In The Loneliness Files, Dixon invites us to sit on her sofa with her, and with unflinching humility, reveals to us that her fear of dying alone is only eclipsed by her fear of not being remembered. I can assure you that anyone who reads The Loneliness Files will not be able to forget Dixon or her extraordinarily relatable journey.
—Laura Cathcart Robbins, author of Stash: My Life In Hiding
In The Loneliness Files, Athena Dixon dissects the social constructs that both create and pathologize loneliness, ultimately concluding that the remedy might not be its eradication, but a radical re-envisioning of what loneliness can make possible: a deeper understanding of oneself, a deeper appreciation of the connections that keep us tethered to the world, and the absolute wonder of finding unexpected pockets of joy in solitude. Dixon writes with the astute candor of a recluse who has invited you into her most intimate spaces, ones that are rich with the minutia of a contemporary life, and in so doing, she compels you to consider the intricacies of your own.
—Destiny O. Birdsong, author of Nobody's Magic
Overflowing with affection and humanity even as it examines difficult subjects, The Loneliness Files is one of those all-too-rare treats: a memoir to converse with. It is musical, truthful, and as I read, I left notes in the margins, re-examined my own experience of the global Pandemic, and let the conversation re-shape my present. This book is a true gem, and only a superior essayist could have created it. Instead of putting it down when I finished, I flipped right back to page 1 and started over.
—Alex Jennings, author of The Ballad of Perilous Graves
Haunting, affecting, and searingly smart, Athena Dixon’s The Loneliness Files is both a mirror and soundtrack for our times. She offers us, in prose both lyrical and hypnotic, insights so unflinching they left me breathless. This book goes beyond one woman’s loneliness to illuminate essential truths about our collective aloneness.
—Jeannine Ouellette, author of The Part that Burns