3.03.16: The Lonely City & Getting to Know Runaway Slaves

Mar 3, 2016

From the solitary writer to the reclusive painter, loneliness is a rich vein for artists. Today, Olivia Laing meditates on her own bouts of loneliness, what it has meant to the world's great creative minds and why such an essential human experience cannot be wholly worthless.

Then, a historian on what ads seeking the capture of runaway slaves reveal about the identity, character and lives of runaways. 

Listen to the full show. 

The Lonely City

The writer Olivia Laing found herself overwhelmed with loneliness after moving from England to New York for a relationship that ended abruptly.  Living in a string of sublets and surrounded by couples and crowds, she felt dis-connected...deviant.

Rather than deny her wish for connection, she dives into the experience of urban isolation and of several artists whose desolation fueled their work. Her book, The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone guides readers through the biographies artists, research on loneliness, and of Olivia coming to believe that such an essential human experience as loneliness cannot be wholly worthless.   

You can read Maureen Corrigan's review of The Lonely City here

For the Love of the (Video) Game

Every weekend, a competitive video game tournament takes place in the basement of an unmarked building in New York’s Chinatown. They’re not playing a popular game like Halo 5 or Assassin’s Creed, instead, this tournament features just one game, the 14 year old Super Smash Bros. Melee. Despite the fact that Smash Brothers was originally intended for children, the tournament regularly draws seventy to 100 players….mostly adults. Producer Jack D’Isidoro brings us the story.

You can listen to story again at PRX.org.  

Getting to Know Runaway Slaves

On a recent trip to the Jefferson Memorial Museum, Virginia was struck by a newspaper ad placed by Jefferson in 1769 describing a runaway slave.  Besides the paradox of being placed by the man who wrote "all men are created equal" just seven years later, she was stunned by the level of detail in the description.

The precise details of "runaway ads" helped identify and capture escaped slaves. They are now being fed into databases that allow historians and descendants to learn more about the identity, character and lives of runaways.

Mary Niall Mitchell is an associate professor of Early American History at University of New Orleans and is working on the Cornell University-based "Freedom on the Move" database.

Remembering Ozell

Randy Cooper lives on a farm in the Mississippi Delta that was once part of a slave plantation. As part of the series Teenage Diaries, Randy was given a recorder and asked to document his life in rural Mississippi...he decided to research the civil rights movement in his county and what he learned led him back to his family. 

You can listen to this story again at PRX.org