On the first days of 2017 I was alone in a cabin in upstate New York trying my hardest to write. I had not yet disabused myself of the Walden fantasy, and I wanted a quiet place where I could see stars. The sun rose at seven and set at five: I took short excursions in the morning, and in the afternoon I would lie on my back, peering out the window at an odd angle, and read. My retreat was meant to last five days. I made generous estimates for food and drink, and most of the time I wanted for nothing. Much to my disappointment the neighbourhood was not deserted; many had put up “no trespassing” signs, and although I didn’t see anybody I felt cheated of my solitude. It occurred to me that I had perhaps not paid enough. What I wanted in truth was some sort of secluded mountain temple, and to be fair, if I owned one I wouldn’t put it up for rent.