Friday, November 24, 2017

Writers' rooms / Siri Hustvedt

Photo by Eamonn McCabe

Writers' rooms: Siri Hustvedt

Friday 26 October 2007 16.59 BST

A room to write in isn't like other rooms, because most of the time the person in it doesn't see it. My attention is on the page in front of me, on what the people in the book are doing or saying, and my awareness of the things near me is muted, part of the vague sensual information that comes and goes as I mull over the next sentence. I do feel the light in my room, however. My study is on the top floor of our house, which has four storeys, and the windows face south, so the sunshine streams through the panes, and even on a bleak winter day my workplace is luminous.

I usually sit down at my desk around eight o'clock in the morning and write until my brain begins to dim - around two o'clock. My morning mind is far better than the blearier one that arrives in the afternoon so I take advantage of the early hours. I have lots of reference books near me, various kinds of dictionaries - bilingual, medical and psychiatric, 34 volumes of the Grove Dictionary of Art, style manuals and handbooks, the Bible, Gray's Anatomy, some poetry anthologies, and when I'm deep in a project there are often piles of books on the floor to which I refer when needed.

Siri Hustvedt and Paul Auster

I have an eclectic mix of photographs and objects tacked up on the bulletin board behind my desk and placed on the shelves above it. Aside from images of my husband, daughter, sisters and parents, my favorite things are: a picture of the neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot's most photogenic hysteric, Augustine, from the Salpetrière hospital archives in Paris given to me by my sister, Asti; seven keys I found in my father's study after he died, which he had labelled "Unknown Keys"; his last passport, that expired six months after his death; a wind-up toy monkey I've had since my childhood; and a rubber brain that sits on a little stand and which can be taken apart. Even though I don't spend much time looking at these odd treasures, I like knowing they are there.

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