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Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto 

A wonderful validation for solo fliers, from the self-proclaimed to the reluctant

Wednesday, Mar 26 2003
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By Anneli Rufus

Marlowe & Company (2003), $14.95

As an avowed loner, I was immediately drawn to Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto by Anneli Rufus (books editor at our sister paper, the East Bay Express). Throughout my reading, I experienced numerous moments of recognition and kinship. Her discussions of friendship were particularly relevant to me: "[T]ime shared, even with true friends, often requires loners to put in extra time alone, overtime, to recharge. It is a matter of energy: As a rule, loners have less for the social machinery, the talk and sympathy. Our fuel runs out." Plus, the book is an entertaining and informative read. The author has done her research, and she ties myriad threads together seamlessly (from political economist Thorstein Veblen to baseball superstar Barry Bonds to the latest buzzword in lonerdom, the "quirkyalone"), weaving them tighter with humor.

But for every chord struck I felt just as many moments of discord. As much as Party of One illuminates the loner's place in society and, as Rufus set out to, refines the term ("'[L]oner' is not a synonym for 'misanthrope.' Nor is it one for 'hermit,' 'celibate,' or 'outcast.'" Rather a loner is simply "someone who prefers to be alone."), the book also seems like a personal rebuke to that society, aka "the mob." Rufus spends too much time deriding the mainstream ("A nonloner need not be smart, skilled, or in any way distinguished to have friends"), and the overarching criticism left a sour taste in my mouth. In a Q&A with Rufus included with the press materials, she states, "I think the majority -- that is, nonloners -- tend to disparage what they don't understand, and to demonize whatever makes them afraid. It's human nature, a self-protective response." Unfortunately, she seems guilty of the same thing.

I'm not writing off Party of One, though. The chapters are fairly discrete, so a reader could pick the topics that most interest him. And overall the book is a wonderful validation for loners everywhere, from the self-proclaimed to the closet to those (especially those) coming to terms with their lonerness. I'll make selected chapters recommended reading for my family and friends.

About The Author

Deborah Lewis

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