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The Writer's Desk

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  202 ratings  ·  39 reviews
In lavish duotone photographs, Jill Krementz's The Writer's Desk provides an insider's view of the working lives of some of the world's most prominent authors. Accompanying each photograph is the writer's own commentary on the creative process or musings on individual work habits and habitats. This is a book for anyone and everyone who loves to read.
Hardcover, 110 pages
Published August 31st 1999 by Random House (first published December 9th 1996)
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Average rating 4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  202 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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Sep 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
This book was given to me as a gift by Bill Marshall in August 2014. It contains photos of the workspaces of 56 writers and accompanies them with snippets taken from the writers' discussions of their process as published in The Paris Review. Among these writers is the late John Updike (1932-2009), who wrote the book's introduction. I was reminded how much I enjoy Updike's prose. A great writer, he never took his gift for granted and always did his homework. In his introduction here, he provides ...more
Barry Wynn
Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. For the text as much as the photography. Highly recommended.
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
I remember this book from a while back - I even had a copy at some point - but when I picked it up just recently, it was a fresh experience. Jill Krementz was, in her day, a very well-known photographer, and she appeared to specialize in writers - for a while it seemed like she took every author photograph on every book jacket, and very good photographs they are too. But I had forgotten how compelling the copy was. It's from several sources, most notably the wonderful series of author interviews ...more
Amanda Butler
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
The last sentence of the Acknowledgements really sum up my feelings for this book: “It has also been most reassuring to find desks messier than my own.” I loved the photos of writers, each accompanied by a blurb from the respective author. I only wish each blurb was matched with a reading list of each author’s books.
Justin Wiggins
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A friend from Oxford, England sent me this book, and reading it was a great delight, moving, and gave me great creative inspiration for my own writing. This book is a must read for any writer.
Colleen O'Neill Conlan
I got this little gem second-hand. It is simply a collection of black and white portraits of writers in their writing spaces, accompanied by a few paragraphs in their own words about the writing life. The text was mostly gleaned from interviews from The Paris Review, and there is a introduction by John Updike.

It's a peek behind the scenes of these people doing what they do in utter solitude. It's pretty safe to say that there is no commonality except that they all found their way to publication
Nov 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Interesting - but doesn't really provide any useful information
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It's pretty cool to see writers in their natural habitat. These are photos accompanied by "how I write" by the authors themselves.
May 10, 2007 added it
Shelves: on-writing
i love those pages in magazines that show you what's in a person's bag, and i love nosing around people's kitchens, and i love anything at all to do with a writer and her desk.
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Photographs of authors working at their desks, many taken in the 1970's and another batch in the mid-nineties. Krementz had photographed more than 1,500 writers at the publication date of 1996. Accompanying text comes from an author series in The Paris Review, with a nod of thanks to George Plimpton. George, by the way, sits at "entirely the wrong desk." Pick up a copy to find out why, and on the way, marvel at how word processors have changed in a couple of generations, and how many great ...more
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Writer's Desk, not only shows the writing space of various authors but it has a paragraph or two about each photo and author. As each piece of work is unique so are these authors' desks. Some are OCD to the fullest and others are the complete polar opposite. It is amazing to see such brilliant minds and composers of the written word to see how and where they create their master pieces. The Writer's Desk is a quick simple read.
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I only the read the pages of the authors I had heard of. This book is rather old at this point, and the authors in it look so young compared to how old they are today. I plan to read some of the pages aloud to my Creative Writing 2 students. I'm glad I have this book.
Oct 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Visually inspiring. I hope my writer's desk can be featured in a book like this one day.
Jun 17, 2017 rated it liked it
1 point for messy desks of writers. Dorothy West, Robert Coles and Jean Piaget!
1 point for seeing our studio design in a new York city loft
Michelle Ardillo
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful book with snippets of inspiration from some of the greats.
Kevin Hodgson
Jan 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Somewhat interesting but not as much as I had hoped.
Michael Smith
Dec 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Every writer looks around his workspace sometimes and wonders what other writers’ desks look like. It’s almost a prurient interest. Krementz, who is married to Kurt Vonnegut and is a leading photojournalist, has photographed more than 1,500 writers at work in the past thirty years. This splendid slender book brings together photos of fifty-three authors in their habitats, from Pablo Neruda and Archibald MacLeish to Stephen King and Edwidge Dandicat. Each photo is accompanied by each author’s ...more
Jan 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Jill Krementz allows us into the personal writing space of over 50 writers through photographs she took between the 1960s and 1990s. Each photo captures a writer in situ and includes a brief passage by each writer on the act of writing drawn from "Writers at Work" articles published in "The Paris Review." John Updike's introduction is both illuminating and inspirational. I think I will be turning to the book often for daily inspiration for my own writing.
It was interesting to look at this book because it was produced at a time when writers were using longhand and legal pads, typewriters (manual and electric) and computers, including a few laptop users. Typewriters seem to predominate with older writers in the mid-1990's. It's interesting, too, to see the degree of clutter viz order in a writing room. Several had beds, some used laps. I found the big spreading desks and empty spaces the most appealing. I find clutter distracting to writing.
Joan Colby
Oct 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Charming photos of authors at their various desks. Krementz catches the writers informally, and I must say I was heartened by the overwhelming number of messy desks, and also by the number of writers who maintained two or more desks, as I do for different modes of writing. The texts came from Paris Review interviews, and a fine introduction from John Updike.
Hannah Jane
Sep 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 800s
My favorite blurb from this book came from Saul Bellow:

"I feel that art has something to do with the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos. A stillness which characterizes prayer, too, and the eye of the storm. I think that art has something to do with an arrest of attention in the midst of distraction."
Dana M.
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Learning about how so many famous writers work (or worked)--whether writing longhand or using a computer, whether sitting or standing, whether adhering to strict schedules or writing only when the muse was ready--was enlightening and inspiring. This is a great book for anyone who writes.
Apr 02, 2009 marked it as to-read
I am on a mission to find this book locally and buy it! It is out of print and I don't necessarily want to pay $50 for it! So, if anyone happens to see a copy say in the local Half Price Book store, would you let me know??
Update: I caved and found it through Amazon or Abebooks, can't remember which. A worthwhile purchase!
Tommy Kiedis
Aug 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Jill Krementz brings us into the rooms where authors weave words, spin tales, and begin journeys. Enlightening photographs coupled with brief, but insightful glimpses into the craft of writing by the writers themselves.

Why I gave this 5 stars: It is a life's work.
Deborah Raney
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Wow has writing changed since this book was published! A very interesting look back at the way writing used to be, and a fun look at some well-known writers desks from the lens of a great photographer.
Jul 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult
So glad I found this book! I bought it used online. It has some great pictures of famous authors. I have never heard of a few of them, but there are some goodies. Anyone who is an English nerd should like this.
Jan Deelstra
Jan 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Most of the black and white photographs seem to candidly capture the writers in their authentic settings. It is fascinating to see where and how these greats create. A wonderful addition to your personal library.
Oct 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
John Updike writes in the introduction "I look at these photographs with a prurient interest, the way that I might look at the beds of notorious courtesans" - that's about the size of it!

Also, thank the stars for Edmund White, I like the honest musings of outliers in all their guises.
Jan 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
"You write by sitting down and writing. There's no particular time or place--you suit yourself, your nature. How one works, assuming he's disciplined, doesn't matter."
May 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: donereading
Loved this! See the desks of authors and read a small clip from them about their desk and writing rituals.
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