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 about the spirit of solitude and the confrontation with self that solitude provides. Without solitude, or privacy, the author suggests, the individual loses self-respect, even identity. This is an important book about spiritual experience aimed at a harried, privacy-hungry America.
Sources for Further Study
Atlanta Journal Constitution. May 17, 1992, p. N10.
Boston Globe. February 24, 1992, p. 35.
Chicago Tribune. February 27, 1992, V, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times. May 11, 1992, p. E4.
New York Times Book Review. XCVII, February 23, 1992, p. 9.
The New Yorker. LXVIII, April 27, 1992, p. 107.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXIX, February 17, 1992, p. 57.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch. April 12, 1992, p. C5.
San Francisco Chronicle. March 22, 1992, p. REV4.
Workbook. XVII, Summer, 1992, p. 90.