Author of Existentialism and Romantic Love and Australian Women in New York Committee Member
Skye Cleary moved from Sydney to Manhattan with her family three years ago. She has just released a book, Existentialism and Romantic Love, with Palgrave Macmillan. Skye works at Columbia University, teaches at the New York Public Library and the City University of New York, and co-founded the Manhattan Love Salon. Previously, she was an international equity arbitrageur and management consultant. Skye has a PhD and an MBA from Macquarie Graduate School of Management, a black belt in taekwondo, and she loves scuba diving.
How long have you lived in New York, where are you from and what brought you here?
I moved to New York City with my husband and son three years ago for work and adventure. I also lived here for six years after my undergraduate degree, so it feels like a second home to me.
Tell us a little bit about your background – where did your interest in love begin and how did it lead to the Love Salon and writing a book?
My interest in studying love was ignited when three things in my life came to a nexus. One, during my MBA I was introduced to existential philosophies and became fascinated with their ideas of freedom, authenticity, and responsibility.
Two, I found myself overwhelmed with others’ expectations about love. I wanted to make sense of the disconnect between the pressures around me and how I wanted to be in a relationship. I found myself questioning what I was being told, but wasn’t sure why it didn’t seem right to me, or what to replace it with.
And three, I read a book called Tête-à-Tête by Hazel Rowley about two brilliant existential philosophers and lovers, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, who seemed to have similar questions. I wondered if they knew something that I didn’t. So, I launched into a PhD, which turned into a book. I found myself speaking informally with friends about their relationships, and that snowballed into hosting love salons with friends of friends.
What is your newly released book ‘Existentialism and Romantic Love’ about, what can we expect to find?
Existentialism and Romantic Love explores problems with our everyday ideas about romantic loving and what we can do to create more authentically meaningful relationships. It looks to five philosophers (Max Stirner, Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir) for answers to questions like: Why are we so enchanted by the idea of finding a soul mate? Why does reality so often fall short of the ideal? And does the love we gain in relationships make up for lost freedom and authenticity?
How did the concept for the book come to you and what has been the process of getting it published from New York?
I had always imagined my PhD as a book and after stressing about a book proposal for a year, my friends told me to stop talking about it and start sending it out. So I sent it to Palgrave Macmillan in London, and they said yes. I spent the next six months rewriting it, and then it took another six months for it to be reviewed, edited, formatted, and published.
How has New York City inspired your thought and work?
There’s something about New York City that inspires me to be bold. It’s a city practically bursting with possibilities, because everyone seems to be trying new things, just to see what works. Failure seems not to slow anyone down for too long. It’s also mind-blowing to be surrounded by brilliant thinkers at book launches, public lectures, and events like the French and Ukranian Consulate’s recent all-night philosophy marathon (I was there until 5am!).
Where in the city do you go for inspiration?
My three favourite places are: the New York Public Library, especially the Rose Reading Room; my power yoga class, which helps with clarity; and cocktail bars, because there’s no better place to talk about love than a cozy lounge or summery rooftop over potions compounded by the world’s best mixologists.
What was the experience of teaching at the New York Public Library like?
It was both challenging and exhilarating to engage with an extraordinarily clever and eclectic crowd in a public forum. I loved it and will do it again soon.
What does a typical day for you look like?
After doing the school run, I catch the subway up to Columbia University. Currently, I work with the President’s communications team and my days are spent researching and writing about whatever he is involved with. Then, I race home to try to read my little boy a book before he falls asleep. In between, I've been writing short pieces (like this one on Aeon) and organising my book launch which is on May 28. It’s not easy!
What’s next for you?
Over summer, I will be lecturing at the City University of New York, and then in the fall semester, at Columbia. I’m also flirting with the idea of writing another book.
How can we find out more about your work and book?
The launch of Existentialism and Romantic Love by Skye Cleary, PhD
Join us at the NYPL – Jefferson Market as Skye Cleary, PhD discusses her new book Existentialism and Romantic Love. A meet and greet and book signing will follow.
When: Thursday May 28, 2015, 6.30 - 8pm
Where: YPL’s Jefferson Market Library, 425 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY
RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org or https://eventbrite.com/event/15963361845/
Space is limited and RSVP is essential.
Existentialism and Romantic Love explores the thinking of five existential philosophers (Max Stirner, Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir) to uncover fresh insights about what is wrong with our everyday ideas about romantic loving, why reality often falls short of the ideal, sources of frustrations and disappointments, and possibilities for creating authentically meaningful relationships. Find out more at skyecleary.com or read her recent piece here.