Party of One by Anneli Rufus – Book Review

If you consider yourself a “loner,” and I suspect that many of us diarists fall into this category, then I am going to recommend a book that will help you hold your head up proud and banish to the dung heap all those taunts of anti-social behavior.   It’s called Party of One: The Loners’  Manifesto, by Anneli Rufus.

The cover of the book is hilarious – a sheep, standing all by itself on a hillside.  The book is described as “an essential defense of the people the world loves to revile—yet without whom it would be lost. “  “Self-reliant, each loner swims alone through a social world—a world of teams, troops and groups—that scorns and misunderstands those who stand apart.   Everywhere from newspapers to playgrounds, loners are accused of being crazy, cold, stuck-up, standoffish, selfish, sad, bad, secretive and lonely—and, of course, serial killers.  Loners, however, know better than anyone how to entertain themselves—and how to contemplate and create.  They have a knack for imagination, concentration, inner discipline, and invention—a talent for not being bored.”

Loners, you will love this book.  It is definitely witty.  And lyrical.  I see someone else called the writer “provocative and passionate.”  I enjoyed her writing immensely and not just because she was giving the old one-two to negative images of the loner.

A few quotes from the book:

“Because we do not feel as one with others or equate ourselves with others, we suspect whatever is popular.  I am not the only loner who puts off seeing top-ten movies or reading top-ten books.”

“There is simply too much to do alone, no time to spare.  Shared time, while not entirely wasted if the sharer is a true friend, must be parceled out with care, like rationed flour.”

“Spending a lot of time alone is like an accidental meditation. A casual mindfulness.  We do not have to work at this, at observation or serenity.  Any loner is halfway to Buddhism without knowing it.”

“We do not require company.  The opposite:  in varying degrees, it bores us, drains us, makes our eyes glaze over.”

Our loner view of insanity would be: “That talking to others all day is symptomatic of failure to individuate.  That it indicates an unhealthy fear of thinking.”

Rufus writes chapters on the loner and popular culture, friendship, film, advertising, religion, crime, literature, childhood, eccentricity, and more.   She is sharp and perceptive.

At my recent gathering of journal writers we discussed the accusation that one of us spent too much time writing about life and not being with other people.  From a loner’s perspective I would ask “Do we need to spend time with other people?”  (Just kidding.)  From the smidgen of non-loner in my personality I would say “What you need is balance.”  For a loner that balance might be 75%/25%…75 for you, 25 for  social contact.  We must have some connection.   We all need some.  (“All we need is love.”)   We may not need as much as the non-loner.  We tend to be more sensitive to things like the noise and confusion of a party and to be better at observing others and getting in touch with our own feelings and thoughts.  We are not necessarily bad conversationalists but we do make mighty fine writers.

I spend my days talking to people now.  Sometimes talking with them and having great conversations.  I am good at that.  But when the clock says closing time I flee to my private sanctuary on my farm.  I spend my home-alone time with my cats.  They understand.  They have spent the day being loners and when I come back they want to hang out as a tribe.  But they are quiet.  They enjoy watching me read and write, often helping by holding down the pages.

When I write in my journal in the mornings I am actually meditating.  I am meditating about all that I have seen and heard and felt during the day.  I am examining the strange things others do that puzzle and frustrate me.  I am trying to understand life because it is complex and it is not easy.  I am leaving a bread- crumb path for others to follow.


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