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July 16, 2004

TT: Resident artisan

A reader writes:

I'm curious, and it might be worth blogging about: what does your work space look like? I once saw a photo book of writers' studies, and I spent hours poring over photographs of desks, bookshelves, odd pieces of detritus thumbtacked to the walls, and I came away believing (perhaps wrongly) that I knew a bit more about each of them. We know some of what is on the walls, so what about the rest?

I work at home in a small office-bedroom whose third-floor window looks down on a quiet, tree-lined block of Upper West Side brownstones. The window is to my left, a clothes closet to my right, and over the closet is a sleeping loft. (The ceilings in my apartment are unusually high.) The walls are white, the furniture black, the rug black and tan. I sit on a cheap, creaky swivel chair. My desk is one of those Danish-style slab-and-tube jobs: four shelves, no drawers. The shelf on which I work holds my iBook, a pair of good-quality desktop speakers hooked up to the computer (I often listen to music while I write), a phone-fax-answering machine, an external zip drive, and a tall, sometimes shaky stack of review CDs. My printer is on the bottom shelf. The shelf immediately above eye level holds a few framed pictures, a flashlight (just in case), and two short stacks of review copies and bound galleys of forthcoming books.

On the top shelf are:

- The Library of America's Flannery O'Connor: Collected Works
- Four hardbound Viking Portables: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, and Johnson & Boswell
- An old Modern Library collection of Montaigne's essays
- Dostoyevsky's Demons
- Kenneth Minogue's Alien Powers: The Pure Theory of Ideology
- Arlene Croce's Writing in the Dark, Dancing in The New Yorker
- David Thomson's New Biographical Dictionary of Film
- H.L. Mencken's New Dictionary of Quotations
- The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary
- Fowler's Modern English Usage
- A Terry Teachout Reader

To my immediate left, below the window sill, are two neat stacks of books and papers. To my right is a small wheeled hutch that contains office supplies and other papers. Atop the hutch are two boxes full of Giorgio Morandi and Fairfield Porter notecards, a small rock from the shore of Isle au Haut, and a Cup of Chicha coffee mug full of pens and pencils. Beyond it is an electronic keyboard on a floor stand, and beyond the keyboard, next to the closet, is a case of books about music. Behind my chair are seven custom-made cases containing 3,000 CDs.

Hanging on the walls are:

- A framed gold record given to me by the members of Nickel Creek
- A Hatch Show Print poster advertising a concert by Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys, printed from the original blocks
- A poster advertising a 1974 Hans Hofmann show at André Emmerich Gallery
- A blue-and-gold poster from New York City Ballet's 1982 Stravinsky Centennial Celebration

Only one item in the Teachout Museum can be seen from my desk, a Joseph Cornell-like assemblage put together by Paul Taylor out of the original newspaper version of "The Importance of Being Less Earnest," one of the essays in the Teachout Reader. It hangs by the keyboard. My prints are all next door in the living room, where they can't distract me from the day's work.

Now, what does all that tell you about me?

Posted July 16, 2004 12:04 PM

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