Media about living alone
December 13, 2018 11:36 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving into my very first studio flat all alone in the New Year. Yay! I want books/movies/etc to get into over the holidays where the protagonist lives alone (doesn't necessarily have to be a positive representation). A focus on the lived reality of the space and detailed descriptions/visuals of environments would be a bonus. Thanks!
posted by mymbleth to Media & Arts (38 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
When Harry Met Sally
Bridget Jones (first two movies and books)
honestly, How I Met Your Mother has a bunch of living space stuff in it, including several characters living alone, as unrealistic for New York as it is
Jessica Jones has some interesting contrasts of living spaces including several solo

There are probably a ton but these stick out in my mind.
posted by wellred at 11:59 AM on December 13, 2018


Wait until Dark
posted by JimN2TAW at 12:09 PM on December 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


You should read Breakfast at Tiffany's. (I've never seen the movie, no idea how the movie compares, I'm talking about the Truman Capote novella.) Holly and the narrator both live alone in the same building in NYC.
posted by phunniemee at 12:10 PM on December 13, 2018


About A Boy
posted by AndrewInDC at 12:13 PM on December 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


The Tenant is a good one, if you don’t mind that it was directed by and stars Roman Polanski.
posted by ejs at 12:24 PM on December 13, 2018


Your mention of "the lived reality of the space" and "detailed descriptions of environments" call to mind George Perec's Life: A User's Manual, which is not a self-help book but actually a 1970s French post-modern novel. The (obscure) narrative is presented as a series of short (two-to-eight-page) chapters, each describing in great detail a different room in an apartment building. Many of the tenants live alone, so those chapters would fit your parameters.

I found the novel confounding and didn't finish it, but it's been suggested to me that it works better as something to dip into for just one or two chapters at a time, sort of like reading poetry. You might give this a try if that sounds like your thing.
posted by The Minotaur at 12:42 PM on December 13, 2018


The film of Under a Tuscan Sun (I think the book is a little different). But only if you don't mind the space being a dilapidated Tuscan villa - not sure if you specifically want something that will speak to the New York studio flat experience or not.
posted by penguin pie at 12:47 PM on December 13, 2018


A recent episode of the tv show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend had a minor subplot about a male character living alone for the first time. The show features songs to convey character action, and the brevity of the song about how to take care of his home was a joke.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:59 PM on December 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Master of None! A big portion of the scenes take place in his apartment.

Both protagonists live alone in You've Got Mail.

The main character in Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner lives alone and what about her apartment makes her feel safe and secure is a big part of the book.
posted by anderjen at 1:04 PM on December 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


There are some fantastic descriptions of Odette's, um, bower of love in Swann's Way.

Kind of oddball suggestion, but though I don't know that I'd call it realistic we spend quite a lot of time looking at the assassin protagonist's shabby Paris apartment in Le Samourai.
posted by praemunire at 1:17 PM on December 13, 2018


Living Alone by Stella Benson! It's set in a somewhat alternate-universe England after WWI, in which a young woman's life is transformed after moving to a boarding house run by a witch. Here is a brief exerpt:
The witch, after a struggle, passed this test, and produced a parchment covered with large childish printing in red ink.

"My employer made up this," said the witch. "And the ferryman wrote it out for us."

This is the prospectus:

The name of this house is Living Alone.

It is meant to provide for the needs of those who dislike hotels, clubs, settlements, hostels, boarding-houses, and lodgings only less than their own homes; who detest landladies, waiters, husbands and wives, charwomen, and all forms of lookers after. This house is a monastery and a convent for monks and nuns dedicated to unknown gods. Men and women who are tired of being laboriously kind to their bodies, who like to be a little uncomfortable and quite uncared for, who love to live from week to week without speaking, except to confide their destinations to 'bus-conductors, who are weary of woolly decorations, aspidistras, and the eternal two generations of roses which riot among blue ribbons on hireling wall-papers, who are ignorant of the science of tipping and thanking, who do not know how to cook yet hate to be cooked for, will here find the thing they have desired, and something else as well.

There are six cells in this house, and no common sitting-room. Guests wishing to address each other must do so on the stairs, or in the shop. Each cell has whitewashed walls, and contains a small deal table, one wooden chair, a hard bed, a tin bath, and a little inconvenient fireplace. No guest may bring into the house more than can be carried out again in one large suit-case. Carpets, rugs, mirrors, and any single garment costing more than three guineas, are prohibited. Any guest proved to have made use of a taxi, or to have travelled anywhere first class, or to have bought cigarettes or sweets costing more than three shillings a hundred or eighteenpence a pound respectively, or to have paid more than three and sixpence (war-tax included) for a seat in any place of entertainment, will be instantly expelled. Dogs, cats, goldfish, and other superhuman companions are encouraged.

Working guests are preferred, but if not at work, guests must spend at least eighteen hours out of the twenty-four entirely alone. No guest may entertain or be entertained except under special license obtainable from the Superintendent.

There is a pump in the back yard. There is no telephone, no electric light, no hot water system, no attendance, and no modern comfort whatever. Tradesmen are forbidden to call. There is no charge for residence in this house.

"It certainly sounds an unusual place," admitted Sarah Brown. "Is the house always full?"

"Never," said the witch. "A lot of people can swallow everything but the last clause.
posted by darchildre at 1:21 PM on December 13, 2018 [7 favorites]


(most of) 30 Rock
posted by kapers at 1:26 PM on December 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


"I am Legend" by Richard Matheson is the classic SF story of one of the last living humans following a plague that turns people first into vampires, then into zombies (or something). I would think that the sort of "last man on earth" subgenre of apocalyptic fiction might scratch this itch. "I Am Legend has been made into three movies that I know of: "Last Man on Earth" with Vincent Price, Charleton Heston's movie "The Omega Man," and the Will Smith movie "I Am Legend."

Last Man on Mars also works: the book of "The Martian" is not for everyone because of its geeky inventorying of all resources available to Mark Watney, but it might be for you. The book is around 80% on Mars and feels little need to develop the characters (as seen in the movie) of people on Earth or on the spaceship between Earth and Mars.

The book "Island of the Day Before" by Umberto Eco is about a man marooned on a ship-- the ship is empty and immobile in a sheltered bay, but he's unable to swim ashore. It, too, is about an inventory of survival, and I never got that far into it, but the first few chapters were rich with what you're looking for, at least in the "present" story line, as there are also flashback sequences.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:30 PM on December 13, 2018


Skinner's Room, by William Gibson, about a man living in a shack in a homeless encampment on an earthquake-wrecked Bay Bridge. He is not quite alone, having a caretaker, but had lived there alone a very long time first.
posted by ckridge at 1:37 PM on December 13, 2018


Kitchen Stories is a sweet story about a man who lives alone (except for the man who sits in a corner of his house to observe him for a scientific study).
posted by pingzing at 1:41 PM on December 13, 2018


The L Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks
posted by HandfulOfDust at 1:51 PM on December 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


No Place Like Home, by Nancy Franklin (it's from 1995, not 2018).
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:54 PM on December 13, 2018


Sex and the City had a lot of this, especially when Miranda worried her cat would eat her face.
posted by mermaidcafe at 2:13 PM on December 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Oh, The Girl Before is kinda creepy, so I don't know if it's something you'd really want to read before living alone, but it's 100% about how a space can transform its occupant. The house is a major character in itself.
posted by anderjen at 2:17 PM on December 13, 2018


How To Be Alone by Lane Moore
posted by marguerite at 2:23 PM on December 13, 2018


Excellent Women by Barbara Pym. The protagonist Mildred lives alone in a flat in a large house. It's a brilliant book, very funny, but infuriating with regards to the emotional labour she has to do.
posted by hazyjane at 3:02 PM on December 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Xavier de Maistre's A Journey Round My Room is a funny 'travelogue' from 1794 that is on point, even if it was some sort of house arrest that led him to write it; see this FPP: "A book of discoveries like an unlooked-for comet blazing in the empyrean."
posted by Wobbuffet at 3:42 PM on December 13, 2018


The prologue about hiding out in an underground room lit by 1939 lightbulbs running off stolen power in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, illustrated here.
posted by ckridge at 3:42 PM on December 13, 2018


Two funny sad songs about living alone after breaking up:

Greg Brown, Just by Myself

Lenny Bruce, All Alone
posted by ckridge at 4:57 PM on December 13, 2018


At least two of the protagonists and one antagonist in 1Q84 live alone, and their domestic routines get covered fairly thoroughly. I'm not sure I'd read it just for that but it's certainly a theme.
posted by teremala at 5:39 PM on December 13, 2018


Keri Hulme's The Bone People. The protagonist has estranged herself from her family and lives alone in a custom-built tower which is extensively described; the action begins when someone else invades that space.
posted by andraste at 6:16 PM on December 13, 2018


Colette's The Vagabond is about a single woman living in an apartment. A lot of it is about her work dancing in a music-hall, but occasionally Colette's acute eye falls upon the details of her home life. She is courted but decides to have none of him, so the novel is about being alone as a way of life, not as a problem for the plot to solve.

Note though that at the time "alone" meant "alone with a maid."
posted by ckridge at 6:18 PM on December 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Warning: Keri Hulme's The Bone People is a fine novel, but can hurt a lot to read. That's not a problem with the book, but it may be a problem for some readers.
posted by ckridge at 6:21 PM on December 13, 2018


Live Alone and Like It—not fiction but a classic
posted by Ideefixe at 6:37 PM on December 13, 2018


2001: A Space Odessey?
posted by SLC Mom at 6:45 PM on December 13, 2018


All of Ottessa Moshfegh's stories; Homesick for Another World, Eileen, My Year of Rest and Relaxation. Her characters are all grubby loners who never cook, and buy groceries at the bodega. If they don't live alone, they are always trying to escape somewhere. Their relationships are fraught, and the narratives are extremely self-centered. There is a lot of attention given to physical space, mundane habits, private thoughts, loneliness, and disgust.

Also, Miranda July.
posted by mammal at 9:22 PM on December 13, 2018


Earth Abides - George R Stewart. I found this very affecting when I was young. Depicts space well, you can almost feel the recently deceased. A few people enter the tale later on. Explores decay and what might survive for a few decades.
posted by unearthed at 9:38 PM on December 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Amélie lives alone in a lovely-but-lonely French apartment.

In High Fidelity, Lisa Bonet's character has a memorably amazing studio apartment- you only see it briefly, but it's awesome, and the movie is great anyway.

In the early seasons of The Mindy Project, Mindy lives alone in a cute apartment.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:52 PM on December 13, 2018


American Psycho
The Thomas Crown Affair (remake with Pierce Brosnan)
The Devil's Advocate
posted by alchemist at 12:26 AM on December 14, 2018


If you have any interest in Alaska, Richard Proenneke's experience of building a homestead cabin in the wilderness has been collected into a television film called Alone in the Wilderness.
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:53 AM on December 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


The TV show Mr Robot’s protagonist lives alone and I thought the way they designed the apartment - complete with pizza boxes on top of the fridge and frame-less mattress on the floor - was perfect for the character, a twenty-something depressed coder. Several other characters live alone during the series, and their apartments are all really different and interesting and realistic for who they are.
posted by the sockening at 8:19 AM on December 14, 2018


How about a song?

Spying Glass - Massive Attack
posted by Leontine at 5:17 PM on December 14, 2018


The chapter "Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant" (you can read the whole chapter at the Google Books link) from Laurie Colwin's excellent book Home Cooking is all about her experience of living in a tiny studio apartment in Greenwich Village. There are detailed descriptions of both the apartment and of her routines living there alone. I love that book and that chapter in particular.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:56 AM on December 16, 2018


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