More (Somewhat) Clean, (Somewhat) Well-Lighted Places

Courtesy of a heads-up from Pat McNees at the Washington Biography Group, I point you to a terrific piece in the Guardian on writers’ rooms. Click here to go get it. I’ll wait.

I talked about this a while back, how a writer’s space is, more often than not, his or her sancto sanctorum. And while I continue to admire — and slightly envy — those who have the Dickensian ability to work almost anywhere, I tend to agree with John Banville, whose own workplace is featured in the piece:

“How I envy writers who can work on aeroplanes or in hotel rooms. On the run I can produce an article or a book review, or even a film script, but for fiction I must have my own desk, my own wall with my own postcards pinned to it, and my own window not to look out of.”


What’s really interesting about this assortment of rooms is how normal they look. None of them look like stage sets; there are very few mahogany desks or oak bookshelves sagging under the weight of uniform leather volumes. Most of them are filled with unmatching furniture and pressboard bookshelves, while some desks are simply pieces of wood laid across filing cabinets. The only common denominator seems to be books — as Simon Armitage notes, “Writers need to be more interested in wall-space than square footage,” so they can fill the walls with bookshelves.

Other than that, rooms are crammed with assorted piles of stuff — boxes, scrap-metal robots, Fellini movie posters — and lots of other items that make the spaces intensely personal. I think Simon Gray sums it up best: “This is my room and I can do what I bloody like in it.”

Amen, brother.

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