Monday, 1 December 2008

Writers' Rooms

One of the greatest pleasures meeting fellow academics is the chance to get into their rooms and have a look around at their books. I remember having terrible trouble concentrating during meetings with my supervisor(s) such was my curiosity to have a look around and enjoy the space. Sometimes, if I visit someone and I know them well enough, I simply excuse myself for fifteen minutes explaining that I'll be distracted unless I have a little newsy around. It's about admiration and enjoyment rather than wanting to know someone else's business.

It is perhaps for this reason that I so enjoy the Guardian's Writers' Room series, photographed by Eamonn McCabe. An exhibition collects these photographs together at the Madison Contemporary Art Gallery in London. A preview is available here. I realise that these photographs are about much more than the bookshelves (which often you cannot see that well). It's about the space, about an aura of creativity and a recognition of its mystery. This is especially the case when you find yourself saying "Oh I could never work there...". And the space itself has a kind of creativity, it is a negotiation, something that the occupant, the writer, chips away at over the years. The space is, in a way, another work by the writer. And it is this that I find so fascinating about these photographs.

above: Beryl Bainbridge's room.


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