As bibliophiles can attest, we are all intrigued by the private lives of our favorite authors, often wondering about the ways that they worked creatively, and especially where they chose to write. For many, the choice was obvious, their office or bedroom – a personal space for reflection and inspiration.
At eNotes, we are really interested in embracing creativity and developing tips for success in school and work spaces. Time and time again we encounter articles noting the importance of having an organized, inspiring space to get to work. As we meditate on how to improve our own spaces, we’ve found ourselves wondering how our favorite authors might decorate their offices today. With this in mind, we created today’s blog post: A Writer’s Haven.
We’ve gone through and selected five famous authors from various time periods and have translated their individual preferences into modern takes on their offices. We had a lot of fun putting these together, and we hope you enjoy checking them out and finding inspiration for your own space. Check ‘em out below!
For Jane’s office we imagined a light and airy space with lots of natural light and creature comforts. We acknowledged her English roots and incorporate a tea pot, because we think that if any of our favorite authors would have had a tea pot in their office, it would have been her. We like to imagine that if Jane were here today, she would be a bit of an introvert, anxious to re-read the great number of books in her built-in bookcase.
Want to learn more about Jane Austen and her writing? Check out this link: http://www.enotes.com/topics/jane-austen
Mark your calendars and make some plans! November 1st is National Author’s Day. In 1929, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs created the day to honor America’s writers; in 1949, the day was officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Congress. The resolution states, in part, that “[b]y celebrating author’s day as a nation, we would not only show patriotism, loyalty and appreciation of the men and women who have made American literature possible but would also encourage and inspire others to give of themselves in making a better America.”
Most of these historic places are privately staffed or state-run, meaning that even if the government shutdown continues, you should be able to visit these homes, museums, and locations:
Called “America’s Shakespeare,” Edgar Allan Poe created or mastered the short story, detective fiction, science fiction, lyric poetry and the horror story. His dark genius has invited children and adults to read and love literature for over 150 years.
Built by Twain’s father-in-law, Twain called this retreat “The Cozy Nest.” It is located on the campus of Elmira College. Twain’s grave is also located in the town of Elmira.
In between drinking (Hemingway) and hiding (Pynchon), these two iconic writers were known to procrastinate in the way that many of us who write do: by chowing down. While stuffing our faces may partially delay the pain of composing, it’s not all duck-and-cover. Writing often requires mulling. As Umberto Eco notes, “Writing doesn’t mean necessarily putting words on a sheet of paper. You can write a chapter while walking or eating.”
A new discovery for me, by way of the Paris Review, is a site called Paper and Salt, a blog devoted to the love of food and literature. (Maybe I’ll start another called Windex and Waffles, which, granted, does not have quite the appeal of the former but I do tend to clean everything, and then EAT everything, when I have Major Writing to accomplish.)
Anyway, it’s pretty entertaining to hear about Pynchon and his love of Beer-Braised Chicken Tacos. Apparently, Pynchon could often be found
“wearing an old red hunting-jacket and sunglasses, doting on Mexican food at a taco stand.” Throughout the late 60s and 70s, Pynchon became a regular at El Tarasco in Manhattan Beach (It’s still open today, if you want to follow in his culinary footsteps). Neighbors would frequently spot him chowing down—the notorious hermit, lured into public by a burrito.”
Hemingway had his favorites, too. Among them was the humble hamburger, pan-fried, not grilled. Among his papers was found these explicit instructions for cooking Papa a proper burger:
If you happened to be in Key West, Florida during the third week of July, you may have found yourself caught in a sudden and strange upsurge in the local population of white-bearded men sporting cable-knit fishermen’s turtlenecks. You may have wondered why said men were often found gathered in the streets—donning Pamplona-red neck-scarves, their barrel-shaped midriffs squeezed into white t-shirts—or in bars wrestling the arms of pitiable strangers. You may have thought to yourself, what is this? A Hemingway convention or something?
Why, yes. Yes it is.
Each year throughout the third week of July, Ernest Hemingway enthusiasts, or at least the most genetically gifted of them, flock to the island of Key West for the largest (and presumably manliest) look-alike competition in the world. Beginning on the 21st, Hemingway’s birthday, the contest boasted nearly 150 participants this year. 150 specimens of sport-fishing, bull-running, beard-cultivating machismo.
Amidst the four-day competition, photographer Henry Hargreaves sought to replicate the iconic photograph of “Papa” Hemingway himself, taken in 1957. For this he enlisted the help of several contestants. But Hargreaves knew that the replicas would only work if the subjects delved into the mindset of the author when the original photo was taken, not an easy task given what Hemingway had just gone through at that time in his life. As Hargreaves explains it,
I told each sitter about the original shoot with Karsh: how Hemingway just returned from Africa and a terrible plane crash and was in agony; asked them to contemplate the amazing amount of pain he was in but the equally amazing focus he had to sit quietly for a portrait.
Everything came together to take them to a place of pure expression: being Hemingway, inhabiting him; looking like, even feeling like The Man himself. Just what I was after.
JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY / AP (The birth certificate and family photograph of Ernest Hemingway from a scrapbook created by his mother, Grace Hall Hemingway.)
Long before “scrapbooking” was a verb, mothers were collecting memories about their children and their achievements in volumes for posterity. Fortunately for both fans and scholars of Ernest Hemingway, his mother, Grace, was one of these women who kept meticulous journals of her now-famous (and infamous) son.
This week, in honor of what would have been the iconic American author’s 114th birthday, July 21, 1899, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston has made available to the public the digitized journals. There are a total of five volumes and all can now be viewed online here.
For scholars, this is particularly exciting news as the majority of the collection has never been available and only a few fortunate researchers have seen it at all. Prior to their digitization, the leather books were kept in a dark vault to prevent them from crumbling and otherwise becoming damaged.
Ever wondered what the most respected authors of the world might have looked like in their teenage years? Today Flavorwire compiled sixteen photographs of writers in their adolescence. Scroll down to see a Yearbook compilation of the ten cutest, most awkward, most serious, and most likely to write the next great Canadian novel…
A 17 year-old Ernest Hemingway
The gangly and adorable Neil Gaiman
Flannery O’Connor confesses to her high school newspaper that her hobby is “Collecting rejection slips” from publishing houses.
Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, age 15
A carefree, teenaged Allen Ginsberg at 16
Posho Martin Amis with his father, the writer Kingsley Amis
J. D. Salinger’s yearbook photo from military academy, 1936
A 14 year-old Virginia Woolf, then Virginia Stephen
Beautfiul Anais Nin at 19
Margaret Atwood in her high school yearbook, minus the distinctive curly locks
For the full showcase, including Samuel Beckett’s steely eyed gaze, head to Flavorwire.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, once again frantic Google searches are conducted to find someone who has said what you would like to say. Here are ten writers who wrote letters to their beloveds. Some are touching, some are steamy, some are funny. Perhaps you will find some inspiration from their words.
July 6, 1806
My angel, my all, my very self — only a few words today and at that with your pencil — not till tomorrow will my lodgings be definitely determined upon — what a useless waste of time. Why this deep sorrow where necessity speaks — can our love endure except through sacrifices — except through not demanding everything — can you change it that you are not wholly mine, I not wholly thine?
Oh, God! look out into the beauties of nature and comfort yourself with that which must be — love demands everything and that very justly — that it is with me so far as you are concerned, and you with
me. If we were wholly united you would feel the pain of it as little as I!
Now a quick change to things internal from things external. We shall surely see each other; moreover, I cannot communicate to you the observations I have made during the last few days touching my own life — if our hearts were always close together I would make none of the kind. My heart is full of many things to say to you – Ah! — there are moments when I feel that speech is nothing after all — cheer up — remain my true, only treasure, my all as I am yours; the gods must send us the rest that which shall be best for us.
15 August, 1904
My dear Nora,
It has just struck me. I came in at half past eleven. Since then I have been sitting in an easy chair like a fool. I could do nothing. I hear nothing but your voice. I am like a fool hearing you call me ‘Dear.’ I offended two men today by leaving them coolly. I wanted to hear your voice, not theirs.
When I am with you I leave aside my contemptuous, suspicious nature. I wish I felt your head on my shoulder. I think I will go to bed.
I have been a half-hour writing this thing. Will you write something to me? I hope you will. How am I to sign myself? I won’t sign anything at all, because I don’t know what to sign myself.
I liked your hand-walking act; that got me hotter than hell…. everything you do gets me hotter than hell…. throwing clay against the ceiling… you bitch, you red hot shrew, you lovely lovely woman…. you have put new poems and new hope and new joy and new tricks into an old dog, I love you, your pussy hairs I felt with my fingers, the inside of your pussy, wet, hot, I felt with my fingers; you, up against the refrigerator, you have such a wonderful refrigerator, your hair dangling down, wild, you there, the wild bird of you the wild thing of you, hot, lewd, miraculous…. twisting after your head, trying to grab your tongue with my mouth, with my tongue…. we were in Burbank and I was in love, ultramarine love, my good god damned godess, my goad, my bitch, my my my my beating breathing hair-lined cunt of Paradise, I love you… and your refrigerator, and as we grabbed and wrestled, that sculpted head watching us with his little lyrical cynical love-smile, burning…
I want you,
I want you,
I want YOU
YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU!
Paris, December 1795
I wake filled with thoughts of you. Your portrait and the intoxicating evening which we spent yesterday have left my senses in turmoil. Sweet, incomparable Josephine, what a strange effect you have on my heart! Are you angry? Do I see you looking sad? Are you worried?… My soul aches with sorrow, and there can be no rest for you lover; but is there still more in store for me when, yielding to the profound feelings which overwhelm me, I draw from your lips, from your heart a love which consumes me with fire? Ah! it was last night that I fully realized how false an image of you your portrait gives!
You are leaving at noon; I shall see you in three hours.
Until then, mio dolce amor, a thousand kisses; but give me none in return, for they set my blood on fire.
“Look Here Vita — throw over your man, and we’ll go to Hampton Court and dine on the river together and walk in the garden in the moonlight and come home late and have a bottle of wine and get tipsy, and I’ll tell you all the things I have in my head, millions, myriads — They won’t stir by day, only by dark on the river. Think of that. Throw over your man, I say, and come.”
Christ Church, Oxford, October 28, 1876
My Dearest Gertrude:
You will be sorry, and surprised, and puzzled, to hear what a queer illness I have had ever since you went. I sent for the doctor, and said, “Give me some medicine. for I’m tired.” He said, “Nonsense and stuff! You don’t want medicine: go to bed!”
I said, “No; it isn’t the sort of tiredness that wants bed. I’m tired in the face.” He looked a little grave, and said, “Oh, it’s your nose that’s tired: a person often talks too much when he thinks he knows a
great deal.” I said, “No, it isn’t the nose. Perhaps it’s the hair.” Then he looked rather grave, and said, “Now I understand: you’ve been playing too many hairs on the pianoforte.”
“No, indeed I haven’t!” I said, “and it isn’t exactly the hair: it’s more about the nose and chin.” Then he looked a good deal graver, and said, “Have you been walking much on your chin lately?” I said, “No.” “Well!” he said, “it puzzles me very much.
Do you think it’s in the lips?” “Of course!” I said. “That’s exactly what it is!”
Then he looked very grave indeed, and said, “I think you must have been giving too many kisses.” “Well,” I said, “I did give one kiss to a baby child, a little friend of mine.”
“Think again,” he said; “are you sure it was only one?” I thought again, and said, “Perhaps it was eleven times.” Then the doctor said, “You must not give her any more till your lips are quite rested
again.” “But what am I to do?” I said, “because you see, I owe her a hundred and eighty-two more.” Then he looked so grave that tears ran down his cheeks, and he said, “You may send them to her in a box.”
Then I remembered a little box that I once bought at Dover, and thought I would someday give it to some little girl or other. So I have packed them all in it very carefully. Tell me if they come safe or if any are lost on the way.”
My Own Boy,
Your sonnet is quite lovely, and it is a marvel that those red-roseleaf lips of yours should be made no less for the madness of music and song than for the madness of kissing. Your slim gilt soul walks between passion and poetry. I know Hyacinthus, whom Apollo loved so madly, was you in Greek days. Why are you alone in London, and when do you go to Salisbury? Do go there to cool your hands in the grey twilight of Gothic things, and come here whenever you like. It is a lovely place and lacks only you; but go to Salisbury first.
Always, with undying love,
When two souls, which have sought each other for,
however long in the throng, have finally found each other …a union, fiery and pure as they themselves are… begins on earth and continues forever in heaven.
This union is love, true love, … a religion, which deifies the loved one, whose life comes from devotion and passion, and for which the greatest sacrifices are the sweetest delights.
This is the love which you inspire in me… Your soul is made to love with the purity and passion of angels; but perhaps it can only love another angel, in which case I must tremble with apprehension.
April 16, 1945
So now I’m going out on the boat with Paxthe and Don Andres and Gregorio and stay out all day and then come in and will be sure there will be letters or a letter. And maybe there will be. If there aren’t I’ll be a sad s.o.a.b. But you know how you handle that of course? You last through until the next morning. I suppose I’d better figure on there being nothing until tomorrow night and then it won’t be so bad tonight.
Please write me Pickle. If it were a job you had to do you’d do it. It’s tough as hell without you and I’m doing it straight but I miss you so [I] could die. If anything happened to you I’d die the way an animal will die in the Zoo if something happens to his mate.
Much love my dearest Mary and know I’m not impatient. I’m just desperate.
My beloved angel,
I am nearly mad about you, as much as one can be mad: I cannot bring together two ideas that you do not interpose yourself between them.
I can no longer think of anything but you. In spite of myself, my imagination carries me to you. I grasp you, I kiss you, I caress you, a thousand of the most amorous caresses take possession of me.
As for my heart, there you will always be – very much so. I have a delicious sense of you there. But my God, what is to become of me, if you have deprived me of my reason? This is a monomania which, this morning, terrifies me.
I rise up every moment saying to myself, “Come, I am going there!” Then I sit down again, moved by the sense of my obligations. There is a frightful conflict. This is not life. I have never before been like that. You have devoured everything.
I feel foolish and happy as soon as I think of you. I whirl round in a delicious dream in which in one instant I live a thousand years. What a horrible situation!
Overcome with love, feeling love in every pore, living only for love, and seeing oneself consumed by griefs, and caught in a thousand spiders’ threads.
O, my darling Eva, you did not know it. I picked up your card. It is there before me, and I talk to you as if you were there. I see you, as I did yesterday, beautiful, astonishingly beautiful.
Yesterday, during the whole evening, I said to myself “she is mine!” Ah! The angels are not as happy in Paradise as I was yesterday!