In a world of easy online connection, the fact of a human body becomes a high-risk encounter, something chaotic and best avoided. Knight, who disappeared long before he had the chance to go online, was perhaps just ahead of the curve. Everyone with a smartphone is, on some abstract level, a hermit themselves, for we burrow into our private worlds and dodge the kind of physical “collisions” that Knight deplored.
I was drawn through these pages in a single sitting – their pull is true and magnetic. By the unsettling conclusion, both hermit and author have wept at the impossibility of the situation: the longing to commune with an unknowable force outside of the rude crowd, the need to connect with something beyond our daily handshakes and trips to the mall. “He was like a refugee from the human race,” writes Finkel.