The Loneliness Files
“An essential exploration of the isolation inherent in our era of virtual hyperconnection [that] also asks how we can find our way back to one another.”—New York Times Book Review
“I was blown away.”—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.
Vulnerable . . . .An essential exploration of the isolation inherent in our era of virtual hyperconnection [that] also asks how we can find our way back to one another.
—New York Times Book Review
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
Thought-provoking. . . . What makes The Loneliness Files an engrossing, often astonishing read is the author’s admirable candor. By excavating her discomfort and divulging her most vulnerable longing, Dixon generates a higher, rarer level of connection with the reader—and that seems a powerful legacy.
—Chicago Review of Books
With a sharp attention to language befitting her background as a poet, she brings the reader deep into her life’s experiences.
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.
Vulnerable, visceral. . . . Reflective yet urgent, reverberating with feeling. Dixon beautifully articulates how loneliness is paradoxically a narrative that people experience together.
—Library Journal, Starred Review
Moving and lyrical.
A stunning expose on loneliness, internet life, and aging. Dixon beautifully examines who we are and what we desire through the lens of her life. Dixon’s writing is jaw-droppingly good.
—Debutiful, A Best Book of November
Dixon’s writing is powered by a certainty that she is not the only one who feels the way she describes, and that there is a value in straightforwardly and vulnerably saying so.
Her essays hold eloquent portrayals of the most common and quiet feelings of loneliness. But most compelling, they resist a tragic end. Though her words may have readers diving deep into what it means to be lonely, they’re likely to resurface with practical ways forward.
Cracks open some of life’s most fundamental questions through the lens of loneliness.
Intimate. . . . Engaging. . . . leaves readers contemplating not just loneliness but also hope and possibility long after reading The Loneliness Files. In that contemplative state, perhaps we find ourselves connected in some way.
—West Trade Review
Dixon’s searing vulnerability shines.
—The Amsterdam News
Unique…. simultaneously intense and breezy.
I felt so seen in Dixon’s memoir. What a relief—I’m not the only one who feels so lonely.
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