I guess I've been obsessed ever since grad school with the notion of one day having an outdoor or semi-outdoor study. The landlord of the house I spent several years in in Ithaca was a genial, curly-haired Swiss architect who had converted a shed in his backyard into a glass-walled, book-lined sanctum; every year I & my apartmentmates would linger over glasses of sherry after signing the next year's lease, and I would gaze covetously over the neat piles of papers on his tables and desk.
Then there was that special issue of Le Magazine Littéraire on Jacques Derrida that came out sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s, in which I could not merely admire the deconstructeur's Euro fashion sense (which frankly was a good deal more dodgy when I came to see him in person), but could lust after the huge glassed-in workspace behind his seemingly modest house in suburban Paris, where piles of books & papers competed for table space with a brand new Macintosh and various snazzy ashtrays.
One of the few good things about living in Florida, frankly, is that one can have a year-round outdoor study without having to worry about heating it. (That is, if you don't mind shivering for maybe two weeks of the year.) Most of The Poem of a Life: A Biography of Louis Zukofsky (see link at right for ordering information – the holidays are coming!) was written at a table right outside the back door of our house, a pleasant but not ideal location. After all, that table was intended to be a dining table, to use for dinner parties and pleasantly temperate evening suppers, a function utterly vitiated when the thing was covered with books & paper, pens & notebooks, etc. And a workspace several rooms away from my study, where most of my books & papers live, meant that things tended to pile up alarmingly in the vicinity of my outdoor table – think huge tottering stacks of books leaning against the French doors.
So finally at long last I have moved the last of my stuff to a new location: an awning-shaded 12' X 12' space at the very corner of the side yard, right outside the door to my office. It's a modest setting, perfectly appropriate for a modest intellectual & aesthetic agenda. I feel like I'm in the midst of the jungle out there with overgrown ficus & palms pressing down upon me, but have crystal-clear wireless internet, good light, and fresh air. The books, papers, guitars and other stringed instruments are only a step away, & all the papers & ephemera can be whisked into the study in a moment at the first warning of an approaching hurricane. And now... and now I need to figure out something else to write. The Divine Oscar wanted to live up to his china; I need to live up to my outdoor study.
[The view from inside]