Literary Voyeurism
August 8, 2008 8:16 AM   Subscribe

Writer's Rooms, portraits of the spaces where authors create: Martin Amis. Simon Armitage. Diana Athill. Jane Austen. Berly Bainbridge. JG Ballard. John Banville. Nicola Barker. Ronan Bennett. Alain de Botton. William Boyd. Raymond Briggs. Charlotte Bronte. Carmen Callil. Jung Chang. Roald Dahl. Charles Darwin. Margaret Drabble. Geoff Dyer. Anne Enright. Joshua Ferris. Jonathan Safran Foer. Margaret Forster. Antonia Fraser. Michael Frayn. Esther Freud. Simon Gray. Mark Haddon. David Hare. David Harsent. Seamus Heaney. Russell Hoban. Eric Hobsbawm. Michael Holroyd. Siri Hustvedt. AL Kennedy. Judith Kerr. Rudyard Kipling. Hanif Kureishi. Penelope Lively. David Lodge. Michael Longley. Hilary Mantel. Eamonn McCabe. Charlotte Mendelson. John Mortimer. Kate Mosse. Andrew Motion. Julie Myerson. Edna O'Brien. Andrew O'Hagan. Adam Phillips. Caryl Phillips. Craig Raine. Ian Rankin. John Richardson. Michael Rosen. Will Self. George Bernard Shaw. Alan Sillitow. Posy Simmonds. Helen Simpson. Ahdaf Soueif. Graham Swift. Adam Thirlwell. Colm Toibin. Claire Tomalin. Sue Townsend. Barbara Trapido. Rose Tremain. Sarah Waters. Jacqueline Wilson. Virginia Woolf. (Step into the reading room for a wee bit more...)

...or perhaps you're more interested in how they write: JG Ballard. Walter Benjamin. Ray Bradbury. Anthony Burgess. Truman Capote. Ethan Canan. David Chase. Bruce Chatwin. Tracy Chevalier. Don DeLillo. Cory Doctorow. Arthur Conan Doyle. Umberto Eco. Warren Ellis. Ralph Ellison. James Ellroy. Jeffrey Eugenides. Michel Faber. Jonathan Safran Foer. Gustave Flaubert. Stephen Fry. Neil Gaiman. Malcolm Gladwell. William Gibson. Dashiell Hammett. Gustav Hasford. John Irving. Henry James. Elmore Leonard. Sven Lindqvist. David Mitchell. Joseph Mitchell. Grant Morrison. Haruki Murakami. Philip Pullman. Ian Rankin. Arthur Rimbaud. Philip Roth. Raymond Roussel. Will Self. Robert Louis Stevenson. David Thomson. Anthony Trollope. Paul valery. Virginia Woolf.

...or maybe you just were wondering, "What books sat on the bookshelves of famous people?" John Adams. Susan B. Anthony. Marie Antoinette. W.H. Auden. Karen Blixen*. Daniel Garrison Brinton*. Willa Cather*. William Congreve*. e.e. cummings*. Leonardo da Vinci*. Charles Darwin*. Alfrer Deakin. John Dee*. Theodore Dreiser*. William Faulkner*. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Benjamin Franklin*. Isabella Stewart Gardner. Gerald Gardner*. Ernest Hemingway. Robert E. Howard*. Thomas Jefferson. Samuel Johnson. James Joyce*. Franz Kafka*. John F. Kennedy*. Danilo Kis. Charles Lamb*. Rose Wilder Lane*. T.E. Lawrence*. Basil Henry Liddell-Hart*. Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis*. Eeva-Liisa Manner*. Mary, Queen of Scots*. Mather Family. Wolfgang Mozart. John Muir. Flannery O'Connor*. Walker Percy. Sylvia Plath. Ezra Pound. Joseph Priestley*. Rembrandt*. Samuel Roth. Carl Sandburg*. Sir Walter Scott*. Tupac Shakur. Joseph Smith. Adam Smith*. James Smithson. William Wilberforce*. W.B. Yeats*. (* denotes a library in progress)

A nice post on the early days of "I See Dead People('s Books)" can be found here. Same for the very early days of "How We Work."
posted by NotMyselfRightNow (28 comments total) 129 users marked this as a favorite
Double on the Guardian links?
posted by mattbucher at 8:20 AM on August 8, 2008

Unfortunately, then, the whole thing is a (very long) double - each section has been posted here before.
posted by yhbc at 8:22 AM on August 8, 2008

"LibraryThing is experiencing high visitor load. To see the site, you need to sign in or sign up. This is a temporary issue."
posted by pracowity at 8:23 AM on August 8, 2008

Thanks for this. There is something reassuring in remembering that these people who we view as the sum of their work were also people, and had messy desks and writer's block.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:29 AM on August 8, 2008


Oh my goodness gracious me, this post is going to occupy me for a very long time. I don't really care if it's a double, this stuff is fascinating!
posted by Drexen at 8:34 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Some of this has been posted before, but I think it's wonderful that this post is much more extensive than the earlier links; most of which focused on authors that I had never heard of. (Ok, yeah, maybe that just says that I'm an uncultured boor, but whatevs. I want to be catered to!)

I love seeing the minutiae of artists' lives (or anyone's life, really). This post is going to keep me quite busy for the rest of the day. Fascinating stuff!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:48 AM on August 8, 2008

I especially love this snippet from the description of Virginia Woolf's room:

This was where, on Friday March 28, 1941, on a cold spring morning, she wrote a farewell letter to Leonard before walking down to the River Ouse, leaving her papers in disarray, with several revisions of her last essay on Mrs Thrale in the waste-paper basket and immense numbers of typewritten sheets lying about the room. It looks much tidier now.

Yes, I imagine that it probably is much tidier now.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:52 AM on August 8, 2008

Good post despite doubles. You had a heck of a week, NMRN.
posted by kingbenny at 8:56 AM on August 8, 2008

Was thinking of doing a post on these but I may as dump them in here...

The Write Place: Iain Banks, William Boyd, Tracy Chevalier, Jenny Colgan, Anthony Horowitz, Lisa Jewell, Blake Morrison , Alexander McCall Smith , Claire Tomalin, Jacqueline Wilson
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:00 AM on August 8, 2008

No Germaine Greer :-( She's out here this month and I'd love to see her room.
posted by tellurian at 9:04 AM on August 8, 2008

"This fragile 12-sided piece of walnut on a single tripod must be the smallest table ever used by a writer" (Jane Austin)
posted by stbalbach at 9:15 AM on August 8, 2008

Martin Amis explains why his writing desk is still so prettily and artlessly half-wrapped in brown paper - kinda like - imho -a simply intriguing postmodernist flourish...

"We've been in this house for 12 or 13 years, but rented it out when we went to Uruguay. We've only been back for a few months, and I haven't got round to ripping the storage paper off the desk."

posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:19 AM on August 8, 2008

Just as I suspected. Comfortable chairs are the cause of the downfall of civilization.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:20 AM on August 8, 2008

My desk looks very much like Eric Hobsbawm's, but mine is piled high with dirty laundry, bowls of half-eaten oatmeal, and back issues of Star and National Enquirer.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:40 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Please don't delete this. Even if bits of it have been on the Blue before, it's a wonderful piece of collation and summary, and given the number of favourites any post about writing gets on here, bound to be well-liked.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:50 AM on August 8, 2008

Double or no, I had not seen this before: thank you!
posted by everichon at 10:09 AM on August 8, 2008

Very cool post, and it must have taken a lot of time to put it together, so thanks, NotMyselfRightNow.

Some beautiful rooms and some rabbit warrens.
posted by orange swan at 11:40 AM on August 8, 2008


Thank you!
posted by johannahdeschanel at 11:42 AM on August 8, 2008

I loved looking at the pictures of writing places. It got me thinking about some of the more "bent" writers who aren't on the list whose work places I would love to see. E.g. Antonin Artaud, Charles Bukowski, Phillip K. Dick, Gary Indiana, Carmac McCarthy. The list goes on of course.
posted by charlesminus at 12:23 PM on August 8, 2008

How'd Cory Doctorow get on this list of authors? I mean, authors are people who write books people want to read.
posted by orthogonality at 12:31 PM on August 8, 2008

charlesminus writes: "It got me thinking about some of the more "bent" writers who aren't on the list whose work places I would love to see..."

Please add Hunter S. Thompson to that list, though from interviews and biographies it seems his"writing" took place in an assortment of seedy motels.
posted by mosk at 2:39 PM on August 8, 2008

Thank you for posting this. I love seeing where others create, and how their creative/writing/artistic process works. I'm going to have fun here for many hours, methinks.
posted by spinifex23 at 4:30 PM on August 8, 2008

That Jane Austen table is just so, so humbling.
posted by orange swan at 8:40 PM on August 8, 2008

Too long; DID read.
posted by crossoverman at 9:21 PM on August 8, 2008

orthogonality, that's cold, yo.
posted by everichon at 9:19 AM on August 9, 2008

I've put the Jane Austen writing table picture on my desktop. Virgnia Woolf wrote that a woman needs a room of her own to write. Jane Austen didn't have that and yet she wrote. There's something so elemental about that picture of her writing table, something that makes it inescapably clear that, in the last analysis, writing is really all about getting down to doing it.

Would I want to give up my attic workroom with its walk-out terrace and room for pacing when I'm musing, my computer, my kidney-shaped desk with its convenient cubbies, my nearby filing cabinet and bookcases full of reference materials, and my high-backed, comfortable black roller chair? No way. But I can definitely do with the reminder that all the
fancy computers, desks, rooms, pens, notebooks and reference books in the world won't ever be anything but accessories, and all that really matters is whether I park my butt in my chair every day and set down some words.
posted by orange swan at 6:21 AM on August 10, 2008

How did I miss this post? I was actually given a tour of Roald Dahl's writing hut by his widow Felicity several years ago. There are photos and a description here.
posted by web-goddess at 12:33 AM on August 14, 2008

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