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The Writer's Desk

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The dust jacket says The Writer’s Desk is for anyone ”who loves to read.” It lies. This is a book for anyone who aspires to write, whose jealous eyes will scan this photographic display of authors in their private work spaces, trying to glean which habits govern the inspiration of Those Who Have Made It. Walker Percy sprawls on a bed; Saul Bellow stands. Many cling pathetically to their ancient typewriters, resisting the sterility of Amy Tan’s laptop. The distinguished photojournalist Krementz, known for her Very Young series and not incidentally married to Kurt Vonnegut (whose desk is his knees), is skilled at insinuating herself. John Updike adds an introduction that feels as if he dashed it off on the back of a cocktail napkin. As he admits, this is a ”prurient interest,” but then again, aren’t the best writers champion snoops?