This book collects contributions to a series of posts that began in The New York Times in August, 2010, ran for a year, and then began again a year later in the Paris Review Daily blog.
Each month, architect and artist Matteo Pericoli created pen-and-ink illustrations of views from the desks of writers around the world based on photographs taken in authors’ homes and offices, along with notes and short essays by those writers about where they write, what they see, and how the view influenced their work. Fifty such pairings are included in this book.
Readers will enjoy finding out about how and where authors work. Gay Talese, for example, never washes his windows, so the view will remain “opaque.” (I’m totally using that one next time somebody asks me why I don’t clean the windows.) Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie likes to look at the people she sees outside her window: “I watch them and I imagine their lives and invent their dreams.” Alejandro Zambra acknowledges that his books would be very different if he had written them in another room, looking out a different window. And Daniel Kehlmann interestingly mentions what his view does not include. He writes, “Absence can’t be captured, not even with the best camera…”
Those who write themselves should especially love this book, which allows a very intimate look at the quotidian work processes of famous authors.
The book also serves to remind all of us of how the simplest aspects of our surroundings affect us profoundly, but often we grow too used to them to notice anymore. As Pericoli observes in his introduction:
“It is hard to pay close attention to those things that are part of our daily routines. ‘They will still be there tomorrow.’ It is often when we are about to lose them or have just lost them that we realize their importance.”
Of course, this is true for people in our lives as well. Pericoli shows us what a difference it can make to pay attention, and appreciate what we have before it is gone.
Evaluation: This book would make a wonderful gift for yourself or others, and is especially recommended for those interested in finding out more about the creative process.
Published by Penguin Press, 2014