8th April 2011
Robert Crum explains why we should value the material trace great writers leave behind, from Hardy’s desk to John Fowles’s breath mints. Read his blog article here.
Isn't there something rather sentimental about this kind of preservation? Leaves me cold most of the time…
It could be seen as morbid and fetishistic, because it reduces the artist to the condition of his or her possessions. Yet how exciting it is to see and touch a writer's desk, hoping that genius might rub off. We should not dismiss the importance of this enconter, however banal or sentimental, for the young reader or writer. Orhan Pamuk has described how as a boy he would read the Paris Review interviews with great authors, seizing on every scrap of information about their conditions of production, and how this slight connection sustained his determination to be a writer:
'Just as I took their books as examples, I drew upon these writers' varied habits, bugbears, eccentricities, and little quirks (such as insisting that there always be coffee on the table). For 33 years now, I have been writing longhand on graph paper. Sometimes I think this is because graph paper suits my way of writing … Sometimes I think it is because I learned in those days that two of my favorite writers, Thomas Mann and Jean-Paul Sartre, wrote on graph paper.
I was not friends with any Turkish writers my age, and isolation increased my anxieties about my future. Every time I sat down to read these interviews, the loneliness faded away. I discovered that there were many others who shared my passion, that the distance between what I desired and what I achieved was normal, that my loathing for normal everyday life was not a sign of sickness but of intelligence, and that I should embrace most of the little eccentric habits that fired up my imagination and helped me write.' (reproduced from Guardian Online)
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