Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Writing in Public

Many days, I marvel that my life passes as I move from one windowless closet, through a tunnel, to another windowless closet. Is it any wonder, then, that I spend whatever writing time I can writing and reading in public? In A Room of One’s Own and Jacob’s Room, Woolf wrote about the oppressive atmosphere of the British Library, with its vast dome encircled by a band of seventeen male names. While I’m sympathetic to her irritation, I have seldom felt excluded (though often intimidated). For me, studying in a great library’s reading room is one of life’s richest simple pleasures. Something about being in the midst of books in a high-ceilinged room with shafts of dusty sunlight pouring in inspires me and provides just the right amount of distraction. The books around-- reference works and encyclopedias--tend not to tempt but to inspire. The people around are interesting in their foibles but mostly silent. I get caught up in the competition of being able to stay concentrated as long as the others.

Today, though, the weather is grand and I remembered that Bryant Park is a wi-fi hotspot, so I’m writing from a little green desk in this little patch of green, surrounded by skyscrapers. In front of me, kindergartners play duck, duck, goose; behind me, a man reads into a microphone. Thanks to Google & wifi, I can tell you that it’s Elmore Leonard. I’m tempted to abandon my own book and listen to him talk about his, but, for once, I’ll resist.


genevieve said...

This is a lovely post Anne. I have to say I admire your focus in a large reading room ( and a park too). Reference area? hadn't thought of that, smart move
( though it's the fairly noisy nerve centre of our state library, which admittedly has some magnificent and well-lit reading rooms after its renovation). Me, I think I'd do better in a chemistry library - tables, chairs, less temptation! and less coffee than at home.
Bruce Chatwin apparently was a location junkie when it came to finding places for writing, and had plenty of friends' houses in interesting locations to use. Makes you wonder how he ever got started, let alone kept going.

Unknown said...

I didn't know that about Chatwin. Thanks, Genevieve. Location junkie. I love that. I can't work well in the houses of others, but I suppose if they were in Ghana or Patagonia or....

I wrote a long piece in a med school library once. Beautiful and irrelevant was the setting; obscure and strange is the piece. I think it's one of my weirder essays, for good or ill.