The perfect spot, finally

The perfect spot, finally

From the multiple versions described by his wife, it seems it took many years and experiments for John Steinbeck to settle on the perfect writing space.  And in the end, he simply built it himself, with the help of a local carpenter. In homage to the name he gave to...
Writing on wheels

Writing on wheels

Another in a series of accounts by John Steinbeck’s wife, Elaine, of his perpetual search for the perfect writing space. This bright idea came of his frustration at one point of a writing room which had no sound insulation and therefore no privacy. But his...
Of centuries and cows

Of centuries and cows

These quirky comments by Steinbeck charmed me – first his reaction to the first room he chose to work in, and then his decision to move elsewhere on the old property they rented near Glastonbury. ‘We lived in an ancient cottage that was listed in the...
Of boats and books

Of boats and books

Another example of Steinbeck’s search for a perfect writing spot, in different houses, places, times of his life, as described by his wife.  She never entered these spaces without being invited, which on occasion led to some surprises.This is a writing room high...
All you need is love

All you need is love

Another description by Steinbeck’s widow of yet another of his writing spaces, which comprised mostly rooms but some other curious places.  Here a ‘room of one’s own’ is complemented by pervasive love. ‘Now I am married to Elaine and in...
Pencil and paper

Pencil and paper

Steinbeck wrote with pencil on the ubiquitous American yellow pad. Computers and word-processing came too late for him, and so I was curious about his wife’s assumption that while he would have liked and mastered them, he’d probably have stuck with...
When did you begin?

When did you begin?

Recently I read an old penny-paperback of The Grapes of Wrath.  I was about three-quarters of the way through when I left it on a plane – I hope someone picked it up and read it.  So I bought another copy of the same edition as it had a foreword by...
Basilicata bibliomotocarro

Basilicata bibliomotocarro

Antonio La Cava, a retired school teacher, converted a quintessential Italian vehicle, the three-wheeler micro-van, into a travelling library.For 20 years he’s been visiting remote villages and hamlets in his home province of Basilicata to bring books –...
A visit to the Palladio Library

A visit to the Palladio Library

We visited the Palladio Museum in a suitable palazzo down a charming side street in Vicenza. Only by chance on our way out, we peeked around the corner of the courtyard and ventured into the tucked away library.Expecting a haughty enquiry into our qualifications for...
A wilderness of books

A wilderness of books

This vast languishing resource was first brought home to me in Erik Reinert’s How Rich Countries Got Rich … and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor, which highlighted a lemming-level of group-think compounded by ignorance of an entire ‘other canon’ of...
A writer’s retreat

A writer’s retreat

We first noticed it when it was still a construction site, but even on a grimly dank and overcast day, there was something about this tall, light, filigree structure in the middle of fields on the edge of a farming village.  You could see it from miles away and we did...
Palladian persuasive powers

Palladian persuasive powers

Let me remember this the next time I wonder what chance there is of persuading anyone to fund ambitious cultural projects of global reach. Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) dreamed, designed and delivered. The patrons and sponsors coughed up. Voilà. This comment on his...
The Saturday of Libraries

The Saturday of Libraries

When we moved to the town of Nyon, I joined the municipal library. The building itself is worth writing about – great thick walls, windows widened with painted wooden shutters, flowers on the sills and in stone pots; a child’s dream of a library, though in...
Visit to the Leeds Library

Visit to the Leeds Library

By luck, a short visit to Leeds coincided with a monthly guided tour of the Leeds Library, one of the oldest subscription libraries in Britain.  Founded in 1768, it soon outgrew its rented premises, and in 1808 built its own elegant, neoclassical building in what was...

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