At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life (Paperback)

Pre-Order Now Badge
At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life Cover Image
Not Yet Published


An illuminating meditation on finding the joys and creative freedom of solitude.

Fenton Johnson’s lyrical prose and searching sensibility encourage readers to discover purpose and fulfillment in time spent alone. He delves into the lives and works of iconic solitaries from Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond and Emily Dickinson in Amherst to the fiercely self-protective Zora Neale Hurston. Each portrait illuminates the bright wakes these solitaries have left and Johnson’s own journey from his childhood in rural Kentucky to his travels throughout the world in a celebration of solitude.

About the Author

Fenton Johnson is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction. He teaches at Spalding University, contributes to Harper’s magazine, and has been featured on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. He lives in San Francisco, California, and Tucson, Arizona.

Praise For…

A work of staggering tenderness, intelligence and beauty…a new vision of self, community and home. This achingly honest and gorgeously written book should come with a warning: It will change you.
— Harriet Lerner, PhD, author of The Dance of Anger

I love Fenton Johnson’s sensibility. It’s a joy and a balm to see the world through his eyes—and to rediscover solitude as our deepest and most powerful source of creativity and spirituality, even for people who are coupled.
— Susan Cain, author of Quiet and Quiet Power

In studies of the lives of beloved artists, and in beautiful meditations on his own life, Fenton Johnson encourages us to understand solitariness as consecration, a fecund, rich condition for the pursuit of beauty. Fenton Johnson’s writing is so companionable and wise that it enacts what it counsels…it converts sterile loneliness to creative solitude.
— Garth Greenwell, author of Cleanness and What Belongs to You

A treasure that I didn’t know I was looking for, one that unearthed and validated buried truths. This small book is incredible, both profound and humane…And yes, it is deeply beautiful. Fenton Johnson is one of our great writers.
— Rabih Alameddine, author of The Angel of History and An Unnecessary Woman

Product Details
ISBN: 9780393541441
ISBN-10: 0393541444
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: January 26th, 2021
Pages: 256