WRITERS ANSWER: What’s on your desk? What are you working on?


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Industrial aluminum tape—a variety of adhesive that doesn’t peel paint but that does administer brutal deep cuts to one’s hands—affixes scribbled upon manuscript pages and related miscellanea to the largest of my tiny apartment’s walls. Edward Weston’s 1924 portrait of Nahui Olin, the under-documented genius rebel of the mid-twentieth century Mexican avant-garde and a central character in my novel-in-progress, reigns queen of the taped-up hodgepodge. A little box of Choward’s Violet Scented Gum is taped next to Nahui’s portrait as an offering for sweet mercy. Also near Nahui’s portrait is a photograph of Gluck—the yum transgendered 1920s British artist (born Hannah Gluckstein)—dressed in a dapper suit.Although they never met, Nahui and Gluck would have most certainly made a ginger-peachy duo. And Frank, the modern-day grunge-dandy eco-terrorist protagonist of my novel, would kill for a girl like Nahui and a wardrobe like Gluck’s. Introduction to Botany (1914), a sweetheart of a research book for Frank’s eco-terrorist projects and my favorite means of procrastination, sits on my kitchen counter/desk. When I bore of tasty chapters such as “Mosses, Liverworts, and Ferns,” I unpeel and reorganize items on the wall. Eventually I write. Aluminum tape rocks.

Felicia Luna Lemus

I don’t really have a desk. I write lying on a couch, with my computer on my lap. I do have a coffee table, which is layered in junk. Right now, I’m looking at the Original Candy Toothbrush (cherry-flavored), which I picked up at the All-Candy Expo, where you should all go before you die. I needn’t elaborate on the wrongness of this product, though the logistics bear mentioning. It’s an actual toothbrush, the head of which is made of a hard candy with two holes. When you squeeze the bottom, a sour, pinkish liquid comes oozing out of the two holes. It is made in China.

At the moment, I’m working on a series of nonfiction pieces, the literary equivalent of giblets, in an effort to avoid working on a longer (read: more mature) piece of writing. Despite my irrepressibility, which I don’t think is really at issue any longer, my mind and heart are far too ragged to entertain any sort of sustained concentration. The most interesting of these giblets is a long letter to my friend Kirk about what it’s like to have a reality-TV crew invade your life. This may eventually become an essay, with a title something like “Red Bull Conquistadors: How to Render Your Cultural Identity unto Abject Shame in Forty-One Hours.”

I’m also working on a review of Philip Roth’s new book, The Plot against America. Roth hasn’t really knocked my socks off since Portnoy, but this book will win him the Nobel. He’s returned to landscape of his childhood, good old Newark, and has (finally) placed his virtuosity in the service of his heart. It may be the best novel ever written about America. I’m including Ethan Hawke’s work in this assessment. I plan to send him a gift of some kind.

Steve Almond

On my desk:a map of Orleans County, New York (related to the book I am currently writing); a history of the Erie Canal (also related to the book I am currently writing); an early twentieth-century photo of two dozen college girls in drag taken by Geo. B. Nicewonger in Elmira, New York (not related to the book I am currently writing, I just like looking at it); five shards of Medina sandstone—largely believed to be the hardest sandstone in the world. The pieces I have are rather a dull, dark color—like dried wine on a tablecloth—but when you get them wet they lighten to a powdery rose; an empty jar of French honey; a post-it with a list of the most bicycle-friendly streets in Brooklyn; a love note from an insomniac written on the back of a linoleum print; new speakers for my computer. My friend Greg convinced me to buy them.They look like alien space pods. I must admit, they have a fine sound quality, but they really don’t fit, they don’t fit at all. ✯

Alison Smith
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