On Greed

I just don’t see any candidate today saying this.

“…We will find neither national purpose nor personal satisfaction in an endless amassing of worldly goods… The gross national product measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

— Robert F. Kennedy, 1968

Writer’s Rooms


Mary Doria Russell forwarded me a link about where writer’s write. It’s primarily about where British and Irish writers write, which already, for me, infuses the whole idea with a whiff of romance. I know a little of the lore of how writer’s write. Legend is that Guy du Maupassant had to have the smell of aging apples in the room in order to write and always kept an apple or two rotting in a desk drawer. Thomas Wolfe apparently was so tall that he stood and wrote on top of the refrigerator, tossing the pages over his shoulder for his sister to pick up.

I have a strong sense that where people write is somehow meaningful, although my favorite ‘office’ in the list is for the New Yorker Jonathan Safran Foer who says, “”I used to work in the Rose Reading Room of the 42nd Street Branch of the New York Public Library.” Seamus Heaney’s office is rather nice, too.

The image above is actually misleading since my desk usually has a pile of papers on it. I’ve worked in a variety of offices over the years. My bedroom when I was in Brooklyn since I lived in a rooming house. But it was a hundred year old brownstone so it was a splendid old place. My mother’s basement, where I finished my first novel. In our last house I had our smallest bedroom and my husband had a much bigger office, except he had to share his with the guest bed and sometimes with a guest. When we bought this house his devout wish was that he would have his own office without a bed, and he does. I had a room set aside for my office, but it occurred to me that in all the time we had a living room and a family room we never used the living room. It was the prettiest room in our old house and had the paintings you see on the right. Those were on the wall of my paternal grandparent’s house and they are very much of their time (around 1920, I’d say.) And the glass goblets on the low buffet (which is full of paper and envelopes and supplies) are bohemian glass, also from the same grandparents around the same time.

So this time, I left the little bedroom as a bedroom and set up in the living room. The funny pile of red plaid in the lower right corner is a dog bed and Shelly the dachshund sleeps there. What you can’t see in the photo are the filing cabinets. They’re under the window out of the frame to the left and they’re just ugly, metal filing cabinets. And you can’t see that my office is in a fairly large, fairly empty front great room and the side that is supposed to be the formal dining room has a Tama drum kit set up in it and not much other furniture.

Still, it’s the most lovely office I’ve ever had. And the amazing thing is I actually work in it. My suspicion has always been that I would never actually write anything in a nice office.

I know at least two of my fellow brainiacs have nifty offices. I’ve seen Caroline’s and it’s really exactly what I picture in my head when I think writer’s office–except that the wall color is better than what I picture in my head. And Steve, of course, built his. I think that photos of your offices should be posted. I’ve also seen Brad’s and it looks like he actually writes in it. And it has dog beds!

I don’t know what mine says about me, but at the moment I am convinced whatever it says is quite conducive to composition.