The novelist escapes it all on a dreamy desert island in the South Pacific. But can you have too much of a good thing?
I think being sociable is just a hysterical way of being alone, and my mind often wanders in a crowded room to a quiet place far from the world. I could be cracking a joke, revealing a piece of gossip or doing the police in different voices, but my true self, as I sentimentally think of it, is always nostalgic for the life one lives by oneself. Not everyone is calm alone, but I am – and I think John Donne got it all wrong. Every man is an island. Every man and every woman: an island, a government, a parcel of selfhood wrapped in doubts. Of course, one hears the sound from other islands and swims there often, but isn’t our home in isolation?
Maybe it was just the house I grew up in, but I always had trouble understanding why Robinson Crusoe repined and had such a hard time with his solitude. “We never see the true State of our Condition,” he says, “till it is illustrated to us by its Contraries; nor know how to value what we enjoy, but by the want of it.”