My Writing Space

I began the series on Writers’ Desks with my desk and am ending it (for now) by sharing with you my writing spaces.

First, I want to give a warm recognition to Eamonn McCabe for allowing me to use his photos of famous writers’ desks. Without his photos I never would have had this series. So, thank you Mr. McCabe.

I wish I still had the stories i wrote on my first typewriter.

Vintage Toy Typewriter (1950's)

I then graduated to my father’s Smith-Corona in my own Waldon’s Pond  cabinOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I keep this photo on the wall of my office as a reminder that I have come a long way.

A poster of Virginia Woolf from a summer doing research in the Bloomsbury district of London, Virginia’s stomping ground.

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To remain open, a quote from E.M. Forster on my wall.

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Michael Frayn

“When I start I like to know in advance where the story is going, and I spend a lot of time thinking about the story before I begin writing it.” (Paris Review)

Michael Frayn writes: spy thrillers (A Landing on the Sun), historical fiction (Headlong), about the creative process (The Trick of it),  farces (Noises Off)    award-winning plays (Democracy)  and translations of Chekhov’s plays (The Cherry Orchard).

“I get more enjoyment out of rewriting, I think, than writing the original. The great difficulty is getting from nothing to something; going from something to something else is always easier.” (The Guardian).

Writers' rooms: Michael Frayn

Photgrapher: Eamonn McCabe

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Philip Hensher

 Here are some facts about Philip Hensher:

He was among Granta’s 20 Best of Young British Novelists in 2003.

His 2008 novel The Northern Clemency was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Commonwealth Prize.

His novel Scenes From Early Life (2012) is told in the form of a memoir and has photos in it.

He writes with no disturbances. No phone. No computer. No television.

Looking at the photograph of where Hensher writes, it’s obvious that he doesn’t have a desk.

In an interview with The Guardian Hensher said:

“I’ve never written successfully at a desk – whenever anyone tries to give me a desk, it always fills up immediately with old bits of paper, and, after a week or two, I go back to writing on the end of the dining table, clearing it all up before dinner. Or, more often, just on the arm of the sofa…A sofa, a notebook, and the promise to yourself that in a couple of hours you can put Radio 4 on – that’s just the ticket.”

 

Philip Hensher

Photographer: Eamonn McCabe

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Martin Amis

In doing this research on Martin Amis,  I learned that he normally spends two hours a day on his writing, five days a week. Except when he is in intensive editorial mode where he could spend 6 hours on his manuscript. I like this about Amis because it gives me hope regarding my own writing. Two hours a day seems to be my limit in working on my fiction. I usually work in the morning and then take  a break. I always tell myself that I’ll get back to my writing later in the afternoon. Sometimes I do, but most times – I don’t.

Amis is best known for his novels Money and London Fields which were published in the 80’s. Since then, he’s had published more than a dozen novels.

Suicide figures strongly in his novels, especially in Night Train (1998) a detective noir novel.

Night Train’ belongs to that special class of fiction, the literary genre novel. Amis takes the conventions of the crime genre, and more specifically the hardboiled noir genre; he plays with them, he turns them on their head, and he delivers as a result one of the most scintillating pieces of fiction in a generation.

http://www.medium.com/longform-literary-reviews/f5214cebd2a7

 

I once wrote a post In Praise of Messiness .  The odd thing is that I like a minimalist, clean look in every other room in my home but my office. Except for Mr. Amis furniture, I quite like his office. It has that messy , familiar feeling that I am comfortable with.

 

Martin Amis

Photographer: Eamonn McCabe

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Lord Byron

 I have great hopes that we shall love each other all our lives as much as if we had never married at all

Byron’s reputation as a womanizer is well-known. He was a  free-spirited man whose personal life was filled with scandalous, salacious affairs.

In a Slate article Katha Pollitt writes: In his short life (1788-1824), George Gordon, Lord Byron, managed to cram in just about every sort of connection imaginable—unrequited pinings galore; affairs with aristocrats, actresses, servants, landladies, worshipful fans, and more in almost as many countries as appear on Don Giovanni’s list; plus countless one-offs with prostitutes and purchased girls; a brief, disastrous marriage; and an incestuous relationship with his half-sister. And that’s just the women!

 Edna O’Brien‘s biography of Byron – aptly titled Byron in Love – reveals his multiple romantic and sexual relationships which nourished his poetry. 

 His masterpiece was his satirical epic poem Don Juan in which he reverses the roles of man as seducer to man being seduced by women. In this way, I think his Don Juan would make a great character in a Chandler, Hammett or Dorothy Hughes novel.

Lady Caroline Lamb, one of many of Byron’s lovers and a novelist herself, described Byron as being “mad, bad and dangerous to know.” A true Homme Fatale.   

Lord Byron

Photographer: Eamonn McCabe

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Russell Hoban

Russell Hoban (1925-2011) was an American novelist and children’s writer.

What makes Russell Hoban’s writing so memorable, and creates passionate devotees of those lucky enough to discover his work, is his patented blend of droll, arch humor mixed.  Dave Awl

For more details on arch humor click here.

Russell worked in a rambling (some might say chaotic) study which he called his “exobrain”, actually a large reception room at the front of the upper ground floor of his house in Fulham.  The Guardian

Writers' rooms: Russell Hoban

Photographer: Eamonn McCabe

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IAN RANKIN

Ian Rankin is a crime writer.

 I am mostly interested in what the crime tells us about ourselves and the society we live in. So it’s not a game I’m playing with the reader; I’m approaching things as a straight novelistFor me a good crime novel shows the world in a way which makes me think about it as I’ve not thought about it before.  in Mail Online.

 

 Rankin has created two series. The inspector Malcolm Fox series of which there are two novels: The Complaints and The Impossible Dead.

 

Of The Detective inspector Rubus series there are too many books to mention. To date almost twenty books. He’s also written a non-fiction on Rubus’s Scotland, short stories, other novels and three mystery books under the pen name Jack Harvey.

 

 Rankin has been elected a Hawthornden Fellow, and is also a past winner of the Chandler-Fulbright Award. He is the recipient of four Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Awards including the prestigious Diamond Dagger in 2005. In 2004, Ian won America’s celebrated Edgar Award for‘Resurrection Men’. He has also been shortlisted for the Edgar and Anthony Awards in the USA, and won Denmark’s Palle Rosenkrantz Prize, the French Grand Prix du Roman Noir and the Deutscher Krimipreis.

 

Not bad for a guy who never really set out to be a crime writer.

 

 I have an office of sorts in my house. There will be music on the hi-fi, and I’ll sit on the sofa (if mulling), or at one desk (if writing longhand notes) or the other (if typing on to my laptop). My writing computer isn’t exactly state of the art – it can’t even access the internet – but I’ve written my last seven or eight novels on it, and it seems to work fine.

Writers' rooms: Ian Rankin

Photographer: Eamonn McCabe

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V.S. Naipaul

There is much to say about V.S. Naipaul.

Some grand. Some not so grand.

His reaction towards women writers strongly provoked me. It made me think long and hard on whether I wanted to give space to a man with such misogynist attitudes towards women writers.

In reading his essays Literary Occasions,  and the various interviews he gave I came to understand how great a literary giant he is and that,  if I was to write this post, I needed to separate V.S. Naipaul, the man from V.S. Naipaul, the writer.

Naipaul the man

Women writers “unequal to me” says V S Naipaul

Such is the headline in The Bookseller  where Naipaul goes on to say, “I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think (it is) unequal to me.”

Lylia M. Alphone, the senior editor at Yahoo responded by asking readers whether they could tell whether certain paragraphs were written by men or women.

See if you too can tell whether a book is written by a man or a woman by taking this fun test.

Naipaul has not only been criticized for his misogynist comments but his biographer, Patrick French, portrayed him as  racist as well.

Naipaul the Writer

For the first four days it rained. I could hardly see where I was. Then it stopped raining and beyond the lawn and outbuildings in front of my cottage I saw fields with stripped trees on the boundaries of each field; and far away, depending on the light, glints of a little river, glints which sometimes appeared, oddly, to be above the level of the land.

The opening of his masterpiece The Enigma of Arrival.

V.S. Naipaul has been awarded a number of literary prizes, among them the Booker Prize in 1971 for his novel In a Free State  and The Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001.

In 1980 Newsweek put him on the cover with the headline “The Master of The Novel.”

V.S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad  (1932)  of Indian parents. In his career as a writer he traveled extensively to such places as: India, Pakistan, The Congo, Uganda, The Middle East, Indonesia, South America, The Caribbean and set his novels and non-fiction in these places.

VS Naipaul

Photographer: Eamonn McCabe

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Beryl Bainbridge

“Beryl Bainbridge has writers’ block. (You’d think, wouldn’t you, that after 17 novels she’d have got the hang of it?) The problem, it seems, has been the title. It has taken her two years to get it right. For a while it was called The Might Have Been: a perfectly good title; nicely intriguing, with a hint of her trademark wry humour. But she wasn’t happy with it. So the rest of the book had to wait until she was.” Debbie Taylor

 

Here are some titles of her novels 

The Girl with the Polka Dot Dress

The Dressmaker

An Awfully Big Adventure

Every Man for Himself 

A Quiet Life

A Weekend with Claude 

” I don’t mind working in a bit of clutter. It’s your mind that has to be clear.” 

Writers' rooms: Beryl Bainbridge

Photographer: Eamonn Mccabe


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Anne Enright

One of the wonderful things about doing research for this  Writers’ Desks  series is that I always stumble about something new and interesting.

I found this delightful interview in Believer Magazine with Anne Enright, the author of the 2007 Booker Prize winner for her novel The Gathering. 

Do take the time to have a look at this magazine for more information on Anne Enright.

Here’s part of the interview:

BLVR: Your novels have a lot of ghosts. The characters are always bumping into the ghosts and the ghosts are bumping into the characters with no real explanation. American writers don’t do that so much.

AE: My ghosts are more like metaphors. They’re like, just words. They vary hugely in their metabolic content—how physical they are or how real they are or how visible they are in the sentence or the room. All of these things are up for grabs, really. Some of my ghosts are corpses in the room. The thing that won’t go away. Whatever it is, in whatever form. That’s the ghost.

BLVR: That headrest in Veronica’s car, in The Gathering. That was a great ghost.

AE: Yeah. He’s a ghost. I looked out the window one day and there was the car. Martin, my husband, had put the seat forward to get something out of the backseat. But when I saw it I thought something catastrophic had happened in the car. It looked like a body with its head on the dash. Suddenly I thought someone had died in the car. It was just peripheral. Just a little flicker. But then I had to check. And, of course, it wasn’t a dead body, it was just the seat.

Here’s her office with a Philippe Starck “Louis Ghost” chair.

Anne Enright's writing room

Photographer: Eamonn McCabe

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