Wednesday, November 07, 2007

another green world

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]


Archambeau said...


Here in Chicago my outdoor workspace is, for five months of the year, a giant igloo in which I sit shivvering over a copy of Catullus. In spring I build a crude platform out of obsolete editions of the Norton Anthology and float them in the small lake that occupies my backyard. On such unsteady ground I contemplate the abstruser passages of Hegel, while bailing with my spare hand. In August I simply cower in my basement, and devote my energies to praying to what gods may be that the tornados pass us by. In the fall I burrow into a heap of worm-eaten leaves and try to compose quatrains on transience.

You're living the dream, Mark, living the dream.

Anonymous said...

I'm green all over with your nigh-Derridaesque studio (In the film on M. Derrida I was more interested in his bookcases and was relieved to learn he'd never read most of the stuff crowded and crammed into every available crevice and niche...


Mark Scroggins said...

Ah yes, who can forget the moment when JD was turning over the Anne Rice paperbacks -- "Ah, somebody gave me these... I've never read them..."

Emily said...

I love it. I want it -- our porch is nice, but it's a little cramped.

I remembered on Monday the great joy of living in South Florida as I read Adrienne Rich on the porch. This could only have been better if I were just reading Rich's poetry, not preparing to teach Rich's poetry to students who didn't read it. (Or read it and didn't remember it.)

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