One of the oddities of this year so far has been hot-desking with my 11-year-old son.Lord, I love him, but he was terrible to share an office with: he left mugs to moulder; he snacked at his desk and didn't clear up afterwards; he strewed notebooks everywhere; and always pulled the window-blind down, while I prefer the light.Perhaps most egregiously, having displaced me from my home office, he assumed I would provide lunch.Last week, he got transferred back to head office (i.e.
a classroom) and I set about reclaiming my territory. Patricia Nicol revealed a selection of books on a room of one's own, including A.S.
Byatt's The Children's Book (pictured left) and Virginia Woolf's A Room Of One's Own (pictured right)In 1928, Virginia Woolf was invited to Cambridge to give two lectures at new women's colleges, Newnham and Girton, on Women and Fiction.Later, these were published as an extended essay, A Room Of One's Own, referencing Woolf's assertion that ‘a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction' — and a lock.I re-read this classic last week, and found it insightful, almost depressingly pertinent, bubbling with wry humour and wisdom.Woolf is clear that a sequestered workspace is an ideal: Jane Austen never had one, writing in shared sitting-rooms, amid interruption and with the pressure of trying to keep her manuscript secret.
The toll of working like this, especially when homeless, is explored in Gill Hornby's Miss Austen, a fictionalised life of Cassandra, Jane's beloved sister. RELATED ARTICLES
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Olive Wellwood, in A.S. Byatt's Edwardian-set The Children's Book, has a study, but that is also a symbol of her success. She is a children's author, who, from hardscrabble beginnings, has built an enviably elegant life and home, Todefright.Pregnant, at her desk, surrounded by books and tasteful furnishings, she thinks: ‘She needed to keep writing.
Todefright's continuance depended on it.' The novel explores tensions between the spheres she inhabits as a mother and artist.Mental and physical space has been at a premium recently, and it is hard to think clearly without it. If not a room of your own, try at least to stake out some space.
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