Migrations to Solitude (Magill Book Reviews)
Halpern’s first book, MIGRATIONS TO SOLITUDE consists of twelve essays treating solitude and privacy with sensitivity and insight. The first pieces confront the issue of personal choice with regard to solitude. One essay explores Halpern’s decision to live in a remote village in the Adirondack Mountains. “New Heaven and Earth” portrays the lack of privacy for the homeless, while “A Room of One’s Own” studies prison life and solitary confinement. Two important essays involve willing selection of the solitary life: the rugged existence of two hermits, and the serene, prayer-filled life in Gethsemani, a Trappist monastery that was home to the late Thomas Merton. Both show how distance and time affect the solitary person.
Other essays offer disturbing portraits of America and touch on life and death for AIDS patients and the critically ill in an intensive-care unit of a major urban hospital. Also, though Halpern disclaims discussing privacy as a legal concept, one essay touches on a teenager’s right to an abortion without parental consent while two others focus on invasive technological procedures such as enforced employee drug testing and secret computer surveillance.
An abiding presence in this book is Henry David Thoreau’s WALDEN (1854). Halpern’s book can be seen as a study of what has happened to solitude and privacy since Thoreau. Written in a clear style spiked with vivid metaphor, MIGRATIONS TO SOLITUDE is ultimately...
(The entire section is 333 words.)
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Migrations to Solitude (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Migrations to Solitude is Sue Halpern’s first book. Portions of it appeared originally in various journals, including the The New York Times Magazine, Antaeus, The New York Review of Books, and Rolling Stone. A graduate of Yale with a doctorate from the University of Oxford, Halpern has a background including teaching medical ethics at Columbia University and politics at Bryn Mawr before turning to full-time writing. Even without knowing the author’s educational specialties and background, however, the reader recognizes in Migrations to Solitude an extraordinarily original sensitivity and depth of insight regarding an often-debated subject, solitude, and its handmaiden, privacy. Written in clear, eloquent prose spiked with occasional metaphor, Migrations to Solitude consists of twelve essays and an “Author’s Note.” These essays are, as the author indicates, “personal,” not because they are about the writer herself (though the first and the last pieces are), but because they “are about people’s lives.” Each offers an exploration of the “experience of solitude,” or in some cases the lack of it, “as a physical fact.” Moreover, although the author disclaims any intention to discuss privacy as a “legal concept,” midway through the essays she does, perhaps unavoidably, turn to such issues as a teenager’s right to an abortion without parental consent and invasive medical and...
(The entire section is 2292 words.)