A Writer’s Haven: 5 Authors’ Writing Spaces Reimagined

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!

Jane Austen:

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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

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How to Write Like Jane Austen

Here’s a tip: keep some sheep leather and blue gauls handy…

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Yesterday we brought you the recipes to two authors’ favorite meals, so today I give you the recipe to one authoress’ writing success: a good leather bound book and a batch of homemade ink. For those Austen enthusiasts feeling particularly crafty, here is the exact recipe for the ink Jane Austen used, provided by her sister-in-law:

Take 4 ozs of blue gauls [gallic acid, made from oak apples], 2 ozs of green copperas [iron sulphate], 1 1/2 ozs of gum arabic. Break the gauls. The gum and copperas must be beaten in a mortar and put into a pint of strong stale beer; with a pint of small beer. Put in a little refin’d sugar. It must stand in the chimney corner fourteen days and be shaken two or three times a day.

This iron gall ink would then be applied to the page with an old-fashioned quill. But on the quality of the pages themselves, Austen was quite particular. One of her favorites was “a quarto stationer’s notebook… bound with quarter tanned sheep over boards sided with marbled paper. The edges of the leaves [were] plain cut and sprinkled red.” 

Better find yourself some quarter tanned sheep. No self-respecting Austenite would be caught dead without a sheep leather notebook!

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Celebrating 200 Years of Pride and Prejudice (and Darcy, mmmm)

“I want to tell you that I have got my own darling child from London.”

These are the words Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra 200 years ago, on January 29th, 1813. And the “darling child” she spoke of? None other than her firstborn novel, of course–Pride & Prejudice.

The novel was published just a day before, after many years of submissions to and rejections by various London publishers. Austen had completed the manuscript with its original title of “First Impressions” in 1797. From there, so many prospective publishers declined to even see the work that P&P underwent 14 years of heavy editing to become what it is today. At last, the editor Thomas Egerton bought the book for a meager £110, the equivalent of just $172 today.

Thankfully, as it is a truth universally acknowledged, Pride & Prejudice went on to become not only the “fashionable novel” of its time, but one of the most beloved (and borrowed) stories of English literature. 200 years on, it inspires everything from its explicit spin-offs (Death at Pemberley, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, etc), to the more subtly taken chick-lit and movie plots of today. And now, in the week of this milestone anniversary, a slew of articles dedicated to all things Austenesque. So feast your eyes on these literary nibbles, Darcy lovers:

12 Things You Didn’t Know About Pride & Prejudice

The 2 Problems in Pride & Prejudice, According to PD James

Making the case for the best Darcy: will it be Colin Firth, or Matthew Macfadyen?

The Real Face of Jane Austen

Here’s another interesting couple of tidbits I came across today… Ever wondered what Austen’s contemporaries and fellow authors thought of her self-confessed “light, and bright, and sparkling” novel? It seems that Charlotte Brontë was none too impressed, though surprisingly it was on account of the novel’s lack of a characteristic landscape more than anything else:

Charlotte Brontë, in a letter to [the critic] Lewes, wrote that Pride and Prejudice was a disappointment, “a carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers; but … no open country, no fresh air, no blue hill, no bonny beck.”

Meanwhile, in 1937 the poet W.H. Auden cheekily mused that Austen was far too experienced for a gentlewoman of her time and social standing:

You could not shock her more than she shocks me,
Beside her Joyce seems innocent as grass.
It makes me most uncomfortable to see
An English spinster of the middle class
Describe the amorous effects of ‘brass’,
Reveal so frankly and with such sobriety
The economic basis of society.

So there you have it, a few juicy details surrounding by far the greatest romance plot in British literature. But if you’d like to learn more, there are plenty of eNotes study guides for, you know, all that important academic stuff:

Pride & Prejudice Study Guide

Jane Austen Biography

Historical Context of the Novel

Character Analysis of the Novel

and much more on enotes.com!

Be on the lookout for ways to celebrate the anniversary in your area. With this many Austenites around the globe, there has got to be a Meryton ball somewhere nearby.

How will you celebrate 200 years of P&P?


Top Ten Famous Last Words and Final Stops: Writers and Their Gravesites

Halloween draws near, and with it, the reminders of our own mortality.  Ghosts and goblins are ways of coping with what George Bernard Shaw called “that troublesome business”: death. And, as Jim Morrison aptly noted, “No one here gets out alive.” So on that cheerful note, here are some of the last words of famous writers and images of their final resting places. At eNotes, we only haunt you with the very best!

1.  Ernest Hemingway  (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961)

“Goodnight, my kitten.” ~ To his wife, before he shot and killed himself.

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2.  L. Frank Baum (May 15, 1856 – May 6, 1919)

“Now I can cross the shifting sands.” ~ Referring to the desert that surrounded his fictional city, Oz. Baum suffered a stroke from which he never recovered.

3.  Dylan Thomas (27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953)

“I had eighteen straight whiskies…I think that’s a record.”  While alcohol probably hastened the poet’s demise, new theories attribute undiagnosed pneumonia as the more likely cause of death.

4.  James Joyce  (2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941)

“Does nobody understand?” No direct cause has ever been attributed to Joyce’s death but his heavy drinking almost certainly played a prominent role.

5.  Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888)

“Is it not meningitis?” ~ It was not, actually. Alcott died as a result of mercury poisoning.

6.  Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817)

“I want nothing but death.”  ~ To her sister, Cassandra, inquiring if she wanted anything. (It has never been determined from what, exactly, the 41-year-old author succumbed to (speculations have included stomach cancer, Addison’s disease and bovine tuberculous) but the latest research suggests arsenic poisoning may have been the culprit.

7.  Mark Twain (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910)

“Goodbye. If we meet…” ~ To his daughter, Clara. Twain died of a myocardial infraction (heart attack).

8.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ( 28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832)

“More light!” ~ The cause of Goethe’s death is unknown.

9.  Henrik Ibsen (20 March 1828 – 23 May 1906)

“On the contrary!” ~ Ibsen’s response to his nurse, who remarked that he seemed better. Ibsen died as a result of complications from a stroke.

10. Hunter S. Thompson (July 18, 1937 – February 20, 2005)

“Relax — This won’t hurt.” ~ Thompson’s final line in his suicide note. The author shot himself. An iconoclast to the end, his widow said Thomas wanted to go out with a bang, and he did. On a platform he personally designed, Thompson had his ashes shot from a cannon to the music of  Norman Greenbaum‘s “Spirit in the Sky” and Bob Dylan‘s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” You can watch a video of Thompson’s final farewell here.


If This Grumpy Cat Could Talk…

Literature’s grumpiest quotes meet Tardar Sauce, the world’s grumpiest cat.

Noël Coward

Edgar Allen Poe

Jane Austen

A. N. Wilson

Friederich Nietzche

–George Orwell, 1984

What other grumpy quotes could we make Tardar Sauce say?

Let’s get catankerous, people.


The Greatest Books of All Time

Is it possible to rank the world’s best literature?

Well, no, and we’re certainly not going to try. Although in 2007, one publication did. Now we ask, did it get it right?

The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books is a collection of “Top Ten” lists provided by some of the world’s most respected authors–125 altogether, from Norman Mailer, to Jonathan Franzen, to Stephen King and Annie Proulx. In all, a total of 544 works were mentioned at least once in the 125 lists, which were further separated by different criteria to concoct a number of other lists:

• The Top Top Ten Books of All Time
• The Top Ten Books by Living Writers
• The Top Ten Books of the Twentieth Century
• The Top Ten Mysteries
• The Top Ten Comedies

… and many more.

Despite the book’s seemingly absolutist mission to seek out the best ten books ever, its editor J. Peder Zane views the collection more as a reading guide. He was inspired by a dream that other readers will probably find familiar; stranded on a desert island and thirsting for nothing other than a really good book, Zane suddenly found himself pelted from above with one masterpiece after another, turning his “little isle into a Tower of Biblio-Babel.” He interpreted the dream to represent the “opportunity and befuddlement” book lovers face, and resolved to answer that perpetual reader’s question, “What should I read next?”

“Part Rand-McNally, part Zagat’s, part cultural Prozac, it takes the anxiety out of bibliophilia by offering a comprehensive and authoritative guide to the world’s best books.”–J. Peder Zane

Something notable about the reduction of a near infinite choice of works to one relatively small collection is the resultant ability to point out patterns in the writers’ selections. Amongst all of them, there is an overwhelming prevalence to go for “memorable character-driven dramas of love and death, delineated by nuanced prose,” as Sven Birkerts so elegantly puts it. We can also see that across all of the lists, the 1920s produced the most popular works, comprising 15 novels named on two or more lists. (The twentieth century in all was the far more appreciated century.) The book’s appendix cross-references the 544 books by many other illuminating standards.

And yet, can we really reduce the supposed best literature of all time into lists, no matter how many we have of them? Annie Proulx, who submitted a list of her own top ten didn’t seem to think so as she penned, “Lists, unless grocery shopping lists, are truly a reductio ad absurdum.”

Whatever you believe, whether the 544 books in The Top Ten can be considered the best books ever or not, the collection must at least highlight a multitude of books that can all be deemed “worth your time.” Close your eyes and stab your finger on any one of its pages and you’ll stumble upon a good read (or at least somebody’s good read). After all, given that 125 famous and respected living writers contributed to the list of “top top ten” below, it wouldn’t do you any harm to give each a try. At least, I know what my next New Year’s resolution will be.

Thanks to Flavorwire, we have a nifty infograph to pictorially dilute the massive amount of information found in the book. Have a look through the results and tell us what you think in a comment. Who was shafted? Who doesn’t deserve to be on the list? We want to hear your thoughts!

 


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