How James Bond Got His Name

Ian Fleming explains.

Categories: Books · Writers · Writing    Tags: · ·

Henry James, age 57

Henry James, ca 1900

Henry James, ca. 1900, age 57. From the collection of the George Eastman House on Flickr.

Not many photos of James exist, and none are as revealing as this. The most recognized image we have of “the master” is the iconic John Singer Sargent portrait of 1913, which shows James as the Great Man. And that is how I always pictured him — aloof, fusty, royal — until I stumbled across this amazing picture. Here James looks haunted and weary, as I imagine he must have been. A great man, of course, but still an artist who struggled, like the rest of us.

Categories: Photography · Writers    Tags: ·

Writers Unplugged

Myself, I’ve set up a second computer, devoid of internet, for my fiction-writing. That’s to say, I took an expensive Mac and turned it back into a typewriter. (You should imagine my computer set-up guy’s consternation when I insisted he drag the internet function out of the thing entirely. “I can just hide it from you,” he said. “No,” I told him, “I don’t want to know it’s in there somewhere.”)

Jonathan Lethem (via)

And here I thought I was the only one going to such extremes.

“I have lived alone in the woods”

Thoreau letter - excerpt

The Boston Public Library in Copley Square, where I often go to write, is running an amazing year-long exhibition called “Cool + Collected: Treasures of the BPL” which highlights some of the rare holdings in the library’s collection. The contents of the exhibit rotate every few months, and the current crop is truly remarkable. It includes original handwritten letters by Louisa May Alcott, Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Frederick Douglass, and others. It is a hall of fame of American letters! My favorites are an original working draft of a poem by Walt Whitman, with edits literally cut and pasted on the page, and a four-page letter from Henry David Thoreau to Horace Greeley which begins:

Concord May 19th 1848.

My Friend Greeley,

I received from you fifty dollars today. —

For the last five years I have supported myself solely by the labors of my hands — I have not received one cent from any other source, and this has cost me so little time, say a month in the spring and another in the autumn, doing the coarsest work of all kinds, that I have probably enjoyed more leisure for literary pursuits than any contemporary. For more than two years past I have lived alone in the woods, in a good plastered and shingled house entirely of my own building, earning only what I wanted, and sticking to my proper work. The fact is man need not live by the sweat of his brow — unless he sweats easier than I do — he needs so little. For two years and two months all my expenses have amounted to but 27 cents a week, and I have fared gloriously in all respects. If a man must have money, and he needs but the smallest amount, the true and independent way to earn it is by day-labor with his hands at a dollar a day. — I have tried many ways and can speak from experience. — Scholars are apt to think themselves privileged to complain as if their lot was a peculiarly hard one. How much have we heard about the attainment of knowledge under difficulties of poets starving in garrets — depending on the patronage of the wealthy — and finally dying mad. It is time that men sang another song. There is no reason why the scholar who professes to be a little wiser than the mass of men, should not do his work in the ditch occasionally, and by means of his superior wisdom make much less suffice for him. A wise man will not be unfortunate. How then would you know but he was a fool?

The letter ends, “P. S . My book” — Walden, presumably — “is swelling again under my hands, but as soon as I have leisure I shall see to those shorter articles. So, look out.” (You can read a transcript of the rest of the letter here.)

The exhibit has other wonderful things, too, posters and prints and rare books and so on. But to me — to any writer or reader, I bet — to see the actual handwriting of these giants of American letters is to feel their presence. The experience is electric.

If you’re around Copley Square, check it out (through June). If not, the whole exhibit is available online, in glorious high resolution, on Flickr. Lord knows what else the BPL has stashed away in the vault. Very cool indeed.

Portrait: Philip Roth


Philip Roth at his home in rural Connecticut, 2004. (Via.) Photo by James Nachtwey. More about Roth’s work habits here.

How Writers Write: Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan

From “The Background Hum: Ian McEwan’s Art of Unease,” by Daniel Zalewski, The New Yorker, 2.23.09:

… McEwan keeps a plot book — an A4 spiral notebook filled with scenarios. “They’re just two or three sentences,” he said.…

McEwan said that he never rushes from notebook to novel. “You’ve got to feel that it’s not just some conceit,” he said. “It’s got to be inside you. I’m very cautious about starting anything without letting time go, and feeling it’s got to come out. I’m quite good at not writing. Some people are tied to five hundred words a day, six days a week. I’m a hesitater.”

When McEwan does begin writing, he tries to nudge himself into a state of ecstatic concentration. A passage in “Saturday” describing Perowne in the operating theatre could also serve as McEwan’s testament to his love of sculpting prose:

For the past two hours he’s been in a dream of absorption that has dissolved all sense of time, and all awareness of the other parts of his life. Even his awareness of his own existence has vanished. He’s been delivered into a pure present, free of the weight of the past or any anxieties about the future.… This state of mind brings a contentment he never finds with any passive form of entertainment. Books, cinema, even music can’t bring him to this.… This benevolent dissociation seems to require difficulty, prolonged demands on concentration and skills, pressure, problems to be solved, even danger. He feels calm, and spacious, fully qualified to exist. It’s a feeling of clarified emptiness, of deep, muted joy.

For McEwan, a single “dream of absorption” often yields just a few details worth fondling. Several hundred words is a good day.… He told me, “You spend the morning, and suddenly there are seven or eight words in a row. They’ve got that twist, a little trip, that delights you. And you hope they will delight someone else. And you could not have foreseen it, that little row. They often come when you’re fiddling around with something that’s already there. You see that by reversing a word order or taking something out, suddenly it tightens into what it was always meant to be.”

Photo by Annalena McAfee.

Categories: Writers · Writing    Tags: · ·

Flickr Find of the Day

Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, from the Library of Congress Flickr photo stream. The photo apparently dates from 1913 or thereabouts. I always imagined Conan Doyle as a less modern, more Victorian character than this — more like Holmes.

Flickr has lots of wonderful vintage images like this one, not all book-related obviously. I recommend the streams of the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, and the George Eastman House for starters, but there are lots more. If you find any needles buried in those haystacks, do let me know.

Dickens’ Outlines

Robert Olen Butler has said,

The one thing that other aspiring artists have over writers is that many of them can view their mentors at work. A painter can sit at the back of a studio and watch her mentor paint, a ballet dancer can watch his mentor rehearse and perform. But you can’t really observe the creative process of a fiction writer. It’s never been seen.

Atlantic Monthly, 6.14.04

It is a cherished fantasy of writers: if only a wise mentor could be with me at the moment of creation, looking over my shoulder, teaching me how to apply the chisel to the stone. The essence of a writer’s work is mysterious even to himself. Ask any writer how he creates his stories, what is happening inside his head as he types away madly, and watch him stammer. The only honest answer is “I have no idea.”

Olen Butler tried to capture the process on tape once. He recorded a series of videos for creative-writing students in which he sat at his computer and composed a short story. He would stop every sentence or so, describing the word choice or plot decision he was mulling, the options available, the reasons he might go one way or the other. The experiment did not really work. The videos are fine as a pedagogical tool and I admire Olen Butler for trying to capture the ineffable, but the constant interruptions seemed to short-circuit the creative process, and the story he wrote frankly was not very good.

If anything, Olen Butler’s experiment demonstrated that writing is intractably internal. It can only happen invisibly in the writer’s unconscious mind. The moment you look at it, it disappears. The moment you say to yourself, “I am writing,” you stop.

That is one reason why creative writing is so hard to teach. A writer can only show the product of his work for an after-the-fact review. He submits his pages to be judged, thumbs up or down, often in a “workshop” (the very name bespeaks writers’ desperation to recreate the studio experience available to other artists). His inadequacies cannot be corrected, only pointed out, because there is no “correct” way to achieve a given literary effect. Technique must be learned by trial and error. No one knows how it is done, even fellow writers; they only know it when they see it. It is as if a tennis coach could only tell a talented young player “you won” or “you lost.”

Still, we try. I have a voyeuristic interest in how other writers work. So when I run across a passage like the one below, from Michael Salter’s Charles Dickens, I stop to study it. This is the closest we can get to Olen Butler’s fantasy for young writers: a chance to look over the great man’s shoulder as he works. If you are not a writer, you may as well stop reading. The subject of how Dickens outlined his novels will not interest you. But if you are a writer, this sort of detail is gold.

The year is 1846. Dickens is 34 and already firmly established as England’s best and most celebrated writer. He has left London for the peace and quiet of Lausanne, Switzerland, to begin his novel Dombey and Son.

Dombey is the first Dickens novel for which there exists a complete set of preparatory notes for each monthly number (an isolated set, quoted above, exists for Chuzzlewit IV), a working practice Dickens followed for all his subsequent novels in this format, as well as for Hard Times which was published as a weekly serial but planned in five monthly numbers.

For each number he prepared a sheet of paper approximately 7 x 9 inches by turning it sideways, with the long side horizontal, dividing it in two, and then using the left-hand side for what he called “Mems.” These were memoranda to himself about events and scenes that might feature in the number, directions as to the pace of the narrative, particular phrases he wanted to work in, questions to himself about whether such-and-such a character should appear in this number or be kept waiting in the wings (usually with some such answer as “Yes,” “No,” or “Not yet” added later) — in short, what has been succinctly described as “brief aids in decision making, planning and remembering.” Among the “General mems for No 3,” for example, we find that wonderful image for little Paul’s desolation at Mrs. Pipchin’s, “— as if he had taken life: [sic] unfurnished, and the upholster were never coming” … and “Be patient with Carker — Get him on very slowly, without incident” (DS XII).

On the right hand side of the sheet Dickens would generally write the numbers and titles of the three chapters that make up each monthly part and jot down, either before or after writing them, the names of the main characters and events featuring in each chapter. with occasionally a crucial fragment of the dialogue like little Paul’s “Papa what’s money?” in chapter 8 [of Dombey and Son], or a note of significant events like “Death’s warning to Mrs Skewton” in chapter 36.

— Michael Slater, Charles Dickens, pp. 258-59

Here are Dickens’ “mems” for the first chapter of Little Dorrit, which opens with two men in a dank prison cell on a broiling summer day in Marseilles.

Waiting Room? No
Office? No
French Town? Yes
Man from China? Yes
Prison? Yes
Quarantine? Yes

— Source: Modern Philology, August 1966 (oh, the wonders of the web!)

I look at these scant notes and I see a writer accustomed to improvising in the moment. Only the bare essentials are drawn in beforehand. He may simply have known where he was going well enough that he did not feel the need to create a detailed outline (as I do). But Dickens must have known, too, that no matter how much planning has been done, when you finally sit down to write, it is time to put away your outlines and research, and keep only a few simple notes on the desk before you. The real work of creating will only be distracted by all this external stuff.

Also, I look at that joyous little double-underline when he hit on the idea of setting the scene in a prison cell and I feel his happiness. How many hours went into that breakthrough? How much of the writer’s private triumph is expressed in that little emphasis? Go, Charles!

Image: Detail from Dickens’ portrait by photographer George Herbert Watkins, ca. 1861. (The original, full portrait is here. Look here for more information.)

A Lesson from Dickens

In December 1839, Charles Dickens was 27 years old and already a superstar. He had written the Boz sketches, Oliver Twist, and Nicholas Nickleby. Each was a double sensation, scoring first as a serial — the day an installment of Nickleby was released, according to a contemporary account, the Strand “looked almost verdant with the numerous green [magazine] covers waving to and fro in the hands of the passengers along that busy thoroughfare” — then as a bound book. He was inexhaustible, creatively and physically. In addition to the long, serialized stories, he had written plays, musicals, and countless smaller pieces. He was a word fountain. All the while, he essentially maintained a parallel career as a magazine editor, generating much of the content himself.

The autumn of 1839 was particularly triumphant. In September he finished Nickleby, which had given him trouble. (“Thank God that I have lived to get through it happily,” he wrote in his diary.) It was published as a single volume on October 23. Six days later, his second daughter, Katherine, was born. Around this time, too, he was hired to edit a new magazine, Master Humphrey’s Clock, scheduled to launch the following spring essentially as a vehicle for his own writing and to capitalize on his fame. In early December he moved his family into a lavish thirteen-room home with a large garden opposite Regent’s Park. He leased the house for eleven years at a cost of £800 down plus a yearly rent of £160 — in today’s dollars, about $100,000 down, $19,000 a month.

By any measure, Dickens had made it. He was the hot young thing. The boy who had once been stripped of his middle-class expectations — his education abruptly canceled, shunted off at the age of twelve to work in a rat-infested blacking factory — was a star.

But on December 6, 1839, he did a strange thing: he registered as a law student at the Middle Temple. In today’s terms, he applied to law school.

When I first read this fact, in Michael Slater’s new and wonderful biography, Charles Dickens (the source for all the material in this post), I thought Dickens must have “applied to law school” to gather material for his writing. He had a long-standing interest in the law and had been a law clerk as a young man. And he often went on long rambles in and around London to find material, sometimes walking 20 or 25 miles, later spinning stories based on some little scene he witnessed. Surely he meant to do research, not actually become a lawyer.

But Slater writes that Dickens intended precisely that. “[A]ware as he was of the vagaries of literary fame, and haunted as he was by the spectre of [Sir Walter] Scott writing himself out in order to pay off his debts, Dickens was determined to contrive a safety net for himself.” Six years later, Dickens was still concerned enough to keep his name on the books as a law student at the Middle Temple, Slater writes, “so that he might one day be called to the Bar where ‘there are many little pickings to be got.'”

Dickens’s story is not quite Horatio Alger. Dickens was not a poor boy who made good. He was a respectable middle-class boy who lost everything then finally got it back — and then some. But the anxiety of seeing his father abruptly tumble out of the middle class all the way to debtor’s prison never really left him. The following winter of 1839-40, Dickens created the character of Jack Redburn for the new magazine, Master Humphrey’s Clock. He described Redburn as a boy “reared in the expectation of a fortune he has never inherited.” He was describing his own younger self.

Interestingly, Shakespeare’s childhood and subsequent success followed a similar arc. The parallel seems too close to be a coincidence: the two giants of English letters, neither especially well schooled but both forced to learn as young boys how quickly it can all be taken away.

But what was the lesson, exactly? What did the experience teach them? Empathy? Both were suddenly transformed from one sort of person to another, in society’s eyes. Or was it a lesson in the importance of hard work, never taking anything for granted? Maybe. Both men became ferociously hard workers and sharp businessmen. Or was it a lesson in how superficial social status really is, in the vanity of social pretensions? Both men did become expert critics of the worlds they lived in. Both saw their own times and the people around them with unusual clarity. Probably the tumble from respectability taught them all of these things.

Maybe for a writer it is not enough to want, to yearn. Maybe what you need is to have something — money, love, security — and lose it, then yearn to get it back. Maybe every great writer has his blacking factory.

Illustration: Detail from a portrait of Dickens at 27, made by his friend Daniel Maclise in 1839. The portrait now hangs at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Categories: Creativity · Writers    Tags: ·

Dickens and the Blacking Factory

"Dickens at the Blacking Warehouse"

At the age of 12, thanks to his father’s bankruptcy, Dickens found himself working in a rat-infested warehouse that produced bottles of liquid shoe polish. The work itself probably lasted for no more than a year, but it left scars on his imagination that never properly healed. His rage at social injustice, his sensitivity to the fate of abandoned children, his never-satisfied hunger for financial and emotional security: all this can be traced back to his time sticking labels onto bottles of Warren’s blacking. So can the routines he adopted to tame life’s mess and confusion. He would whip out a comb whenever a hair was out of place, conducted regular inspections of his children’s bedrooms, and rearranged the furniture when he stayed in hotels, so that everything was always in its proper place.

In his writing, too, Dickens sought to create order out of chaos. His sprawling plots were carefully parcelled out in weekly or monthly installments. His bulging lists of characters were allowed to run riot across the page, but were eventually tied down to the standard fates of fictional Victorians: marriage, exile, death. His “clutching eye” produced passages that teem with the clutter of ordinary life, while allowing some odds and ends to take on a strangely proverbial quality, as when a “sickly bedridden humpbacked boy” in Nicholas Nickleby is described enjoying some hyacinths “blossoming in old blacking-bottles,” like a little SOS message from Dickens’s childhood that has suddenly bobbed to the surface of his prose.

— Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, “Charles Dickens”

Image: Fred Bernard, “Dickens at the Blacking Warehouse,” from The Leisure Hour (1904) (source).

Categories: Writers    Tags:

Dickens and Me

I have been reading Little Dorrit the last couple of weeks and I am engrossed, even though life has been a little chaotic. I have been working feverishly on my own new novel, cranking out the last few chapters in rough draft. At the same time, my kids are on school vacation and our house has been unusually tumultuous — which is saying something.

Still, nothing in my life could possibly compare to the tumult in Dickens’s. He was roughly my age when he wrote Little Dorrit, completed in 1857 when Dickens was 45. (I am 46.) Here is Edmund Wilson’s description of this period in the great man’s life.

Dickens at forty had won everything that a writer could expect to obtain through his writings: his genius was universally recognized; he was feted wherever he went; his books were immensely popular; and they had made him sufficiently rich to have anything that money can procure. … Yet from the time of his first summer in Boulogne in 1853 [when Dickens was 39], he had shown signs of profound discontent and unappeasable restlessness; he suffered severely from insomnia and, for the first time in his life, apparently, worried seriously about his work. He began to fear that his vein was drying up.

It is hard to imagine a novelist achieving this sort of stardom today, even one whom Wilson considered the best England had produced since Shakespeare. It is poignant, too, to imagine a man so fantastically successful yet so intractably unhappy. Dickens’s life disproves the romantic notion that writing is good therapy: he fictionalized his painful memories in book after book but was tormented right to the end.

I am dying to learn more about him. Next up for me will be Michael Slater’s new biography, apparently wonderful, Charles Dickens: A Life Defined by Writing, fortuitously published just as I go on a Dickens kick.

(For the record, the quote is from Edmund Wilson’s essay “Dickens: The Two Scrooges” (1939), available in the Library of America collection of Wilson’s Literary Essays and Reviews of the 1930s & 1940s.)

Categories: Writers    Tags: ·

How Writers Write: Edwidge Danticat

Before she begins a novel, Edwidge Danticat creates a collage on a bulletin board in her office, tacking up photos she’s taken on trips to her native Haiti and images she clips from magazines ranging from Essence to National Geographic. Ms. Danticat, who works out of her home in Miami, says she adapted the technique from story boarding, which filmmakers use to map out scenes. “I like the tactile process. There’s something old-fashioned about it, but what we do is kind of old-fashioned,” she says.

Sometimes, the collage grows large enough to fill four bulletin boards. As the plot becomes clearer, she culls pictures and shrinks the visual map to a single board.

Right now, Ms. Danticat has two boards full of images depicting a seaside town in Haiti, the setting for a new novel that takes place in a village based on the one where her mother grew up.

She writes first drafts in flimsy blue exam notebooks that she orders from an online office supply store. She often uses 100 exam books for a draft. “The company I order from must think I’m a high school,” she said. She types the draft on the computer and begins revising and cutting.

Finally, she makes a tape recording of herself reading the entire novel aloud — a trick she learned from Walter Mosley — and revises passages that cause her to stumble.

— Alexandra Alter, “How to Write a Great Novel” (includes profiles of Junot Díaz, Colum McCann and many others)

Categories: Writers · Writing    Tags: ·

John Irving: “A need to be alone”

“I recognized at a pretty early age — certainly I was pre-teens — I noticed that the school day was enough of the day to spend with my friends. I seemed to have a need to … be alone.” I am sure this is a common characteristic of writers, even gregarious ones. Certainly I needed to have time alone as a kid, and I still do.

You can watch the full interview with John Irving here. Via Big Think.

Categories: Writers · Writing    Tags: · ·

Maugham: “great suspicion of posterity”

“I have great suspicion of posterity. I’m quite prepared to be entirely forgotten five years after my death.”

Somerset Maugham (via)

Categories: Writers    Tags: · ·

Cormac McCarthy: “My Perfect Day”

“Your future gets shorter, and you recognize that. In recent years, I have had no desire to do anything but work and be with [my son] John. I hear people talking about going on a vacation or something and I think, what is that about? I have no desire to go on a trip. My perfect day is sitting in a room with some blank paper. That’s heaven. That’s gold and anything else is just a waste of time.”

— Cormac McCarthy, asked how aging has affected his work

I’m young yet, younger than McCarthy anyway, but I feel the same way. I don’t want to waste a single day on anything but work and my kids, as my vacation-deprived wife will confirm for you.

Categories: Writers    Tags: ·

Financial Lives of the Poets

The publication of This Side of Paradise when he was 23 immediately put Fitzgerald’s income in the top 2 percent of American taxpayers. Thereafter, for most of his working life, he earned about $24,000 a year, which put him in the top 1 percent of those filing returns. Today, a taxpayer would have to earn at least $500,000 to be in the top 1 percent. … Most of his earnings came from the short stories and, later, the movies. His best novels, The Great Gatsby (1925) and Tender Is the Night (1934), did not produce much income. Royalties from The Great Gatsby totaled only $8,397 during Fitzgerald’s lifetime. … When he died in December 1940, his estate was solvent but modest — around $35,000, mostly from an insurance policy. The tax appraisers considered the copyrights worthless. Today, even multiplying Fitzgerald’s estate by 30, it would not require an estate tax return.

— William J. Quirk, “Living on $500,000 a Year: What F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tax Returns Reveal About His Life and Times”

Categories: Writers    Tags:

Philip Roth on the novel’s “cultic” future

More clips from this interview here.

Categories: Books · Internet · Publishing · Writers    Tags: · · ·

How to Make a Movie About a Writer

Yesterday I saw Jane Campion’s movie “Bright Star,” about the doomed romance between the poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne, and I liked it very much. How could I not like it? The romantic hero is a writer. You don’t see that very often.

Writers make bad film protagonists because the real work of writing is unfilmable. A writer at work is doing nothing more picturesque than scribbling on a pad or, worse, staring into space. The “action,” such as it is, takes place in his mind. So the struggle to create has to be extroverted, acted out: the writer balls up a piece of paper and flings it across the room in frustration. Personally, I have never balled up a manuscript page and flung it across the room. I work on a computer. Most writers do now, which should spell doom for this particular film cliché, a blessing for which we should all be thankful.

There are good movies about writers, of course, but they are generally not about the work itself. Successful writer movies — “Capote,” for example — include virtually none of their subjects’ actual prose. They are not about what’s inside the books; they are about the struggle to make the books.

This is why “Bright Star” is such an exceptional writer movie. Keats’s poetry is a constant presence in the film. It is read aloud by characters within scenes and in voice-over. The end credits alone, in which the actor Ben Whishaw reads the “Ode to a Nightingale” in its entirety, is worth the price of the ticket. Keats’s letters, too, are woven into the dialogue. The film is about a mood, and it is the same mood that Keats’s poetry captures so well — gloom, melancholy, languor, longing. The movie and the poems are written in the same key, so the poetry actually enhances the film just as the usual movie devices do, cinematography, music, and so on.

It is surprising that there are so few movies about poets. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single one. But poetry and film work well together. E. L. Doctorow has written,

Film de-literates thought; it relies primarily on an association of visual impressions or understandings. Moviegoing is an act of inference. You receive what you see as a broad band of sensual effects that evoke your intuitive nonverbal intelligence. You understand what you see without having to think it through with words.

Yes, all right, it is a visual medium. But poetry does something similar. It “literates” emotion, it evokes moods without ever quite naming them. Sometimes it describes states of mind that have no name, that never coalesce into definite thoughts, and therefore can’t be thought through, only felt. You can understand a poem without quite being able to put its meaning into words.

At several points “Bright Star” seems about to tip over into preciousness, as so many period costume dramas do. Ben Whishaw, as Keats, is delicate looking. He stares dreamily at flowers or coughs with tuberculosis. (It is really Fanny’s movie. If there is any justice, the role will make a star out of Abbie Cornish.) What makes him affecting is the poems. No wonder Fanny fell for him — he’s John Keats. Whatever flaws the movie may have, I can’t think of any other that incorporates a writer’s actual words so much and so well.

Categories: Movies · Poetry · Writers    Tags: · ·

Writer’s Room: W. Somerset Maugham

Somerset Maugham in his office at Villa Mauresque, Cap Ferrat, 1939

W. Somerset Maugham at his desk at the Villa Mauresque, Cap Ferrat, 1939.

The magnificent view was ignored, the writer turning his back to it and facing instead a row of his own leather bound books, so that, in a moment of weakness he could look up and say to himself: “I’ve done it before and I can do it again.” [Link]

Maugham was wildly successful in commercial terms. His home, Villa Mauresque, was “a nine-acre estate on Cap Ferrat, with a staff of 13 to look after him. His art collection alone, in today’s market, would probably fetch more than $100m.” (More photos of the estate are here.) By all accounts Maugham was a contemptible human being, but I loved his books when I was young, particularly The Razor’s Edge and The Moon and Sixpence, and this image pretty well captures how I always imagined Maugham from the voice in his books: the urbane literary man of the world.

Categories: Writers · Writing    Tags: · ·

Writer’s Room: Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow at his desk.

(Photo by Jonathan Worth. An annotated version of this image is available on Flickr here. Creative Commons.)

Categories: Writers · Writing    Tags: ·