Friday, August 29, 2008

Thomas Dumm's "Loneliness as a Way of Life"

Thomas Dumm is a Professor of Political Science at Amherst College and author of A Politics of the Ordinary.

He applied “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Loneliness as a Way of Life, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Loneliness as a Way of Life is both representative of the book and misleading. On that page, from Chapter Three, "Loving," I am beginning to explore the way thinkers have described the politics of the nuclear family, so the top of the page has a quote from John Locke describing parental authority (from his Second Treatise). Now, John Locke is probably one of the most important liberal political philosophers, but he is also pretty dull, and I'm basically using him to show how the real drama of family life, and its loneliness, isn't really dealt with very well by most political thinkers. This page comes after a couple of pages of intensely personal description of the years in my marriage when my wife and I fought over time -- time to ourselves, time for each other -- because these two beings we had created ate up all of our time. It is preface to thinking about some of the extreme pressures and tensions involving family love, which I illustrate through an interpretation of the Wim Wender's film, Paris, Texas, and then, which I further illuminate by revealing why that film means so much to me -- it has to do with my seeking of love from my own mother, and how she was unable to love, for reasons having to do with her own loneliness. In fact, each chapter of the book progressively gets more personal, and in some ways more sad, as the sense of loneliness culminates in thinking about grief (my wife died after a long illness during the long years it took me to write this book, and her dying transformed the project). So in this book I try to make philosophy illuminate ordinary life and loss, and vice versa.
Read an excerpt from Loneliness as a Way of Life, and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue