Literary Space – Damon Young


Damon Young, author of Distraction, says:

My study is actually one corner of our lounge. The room’s also an office for my wife Ruth, entertaining wing, tearoom, and playroom for my three-year-old-son, Nikos. It’s part writerly den, part Lego wonderland.

When our new baby’s born, it’ll also be a nursery. And, yes, the pram will be in the hall: bugger you, Cyril Connolly.

In front of the main window is Ruth’s treadle sewing machine. We bought it when Nikos was a baby – we didn’t want the noisy buzz of an electric one. It also happens to be beautiful: ornately decorated, beautifully carved and polished. Ruth made Nikos a duffel coat on it (he calls it his ‘Jedi jacket’).

To the right of the Singer sewer is our classics bookcase: a ragtag collection of bindings, nostalgic novels, antiques and far too much Dumas. I enjoy Dumas: such robust, swaggering joie de vivre. To the far right is a cheery but bloody heavy three-volume Proust, which I gave Ruth for her thirtieth birthday. It’s full of mysteries, this bookcase: old, musty, eccentric curiosities.

The painting of Davey’s Bay above is by Craig Forster, a Mornington Peninsula artist. We were once thinking of shifting to the Peninsula, and Craig’s work evokes the windy, scrubby freshness of the Mt. Eliza beach. It’s also an example of excellent draftsmanship, with its balance of harsh diagonals and curving circular forms. It makes a nice little niche, with the bookcase and desks.

Yes, desks – there are two. By the side window is an antique cedar hall table, which belonged to my great-great-grandmother, Annie Coffey. It’s called the ‘Laura’ table, after my great-aunt, who lived with her. It’s beautiful: elegant, light, and just the right size. 

But I work on a cheaper, charming mongrel, which Ruth gave me for my thirtieth birthday. It’s where I cram my crap: ink, paper, mouse, phone and laptop chargers, internet dongle. It’s served me perfectly: I wrote Distraction on it, as well as journalism for The Age, Herald-Sun, Australian. It’s a very catholic desk! 

Ruth discovered the blue ‘forties bridge chair in a Richmond op-shop. My neck is buggered from Judo, but this chair keeps me upright and comfortable, while I’m hacking at sentences, or guiltily watching Star Trek or Doctor Who.

Beside it is an old wine table, which was my grandmother’s. On top are the usual suspects: a cup of tea and a novel (Henry James’ Princess Casamassima, in this case).

Finally, the business end: in front of the MacBook workhorse are my notebook and pen. I write most first drafts in longhand with fountain pens – both gifts from friends. It’s old-fashioned and possibly pretentious. But the rhythms of nib, ink and paper are intimate and suggestive. I often work more curiously, adventurously when I’m driving the pen.

Congrats to Damon and his wife on their beautiful new baby girl!

Upcoming in this series: Paul Morgan. If you’re a writer, feel free to email me something, see ‘About Angela’ for contacts.

9 thoughts on “Literary Space – Damon Young

  1. I just love hearing about how writers work, having a picture painted for me like this. This one seems very neat and tidy. I love that he, too writes in longhand. Very interesting peice.

  2. yes, it’s endlessly fascinating — the Guardian has been running a weekly series of “writers’ rooms” for a couple of years or so in the Review section, and it’s the one piece I always read.

    yours, like the ones in the Guardian generally have 5 times as much space as I have and only 1/5 of the amount of paper to fill it. I’ll try to make a picture of my “office” but it will be tricky.

    And I think in the Guardian too there was a surprising number of people still using pens. I did hand-written drafts in about 1993, but after a year or so I ditched them as I can type a lot faster than I write by hand, and I hate wasting time by retyping something I have written down already. Essentially, I do a lot of the writing in my head, so it’s not so much a question of composing but of getting it out of the head in an efficient way. (although I also had a fountain pen phase, once upon a time)

  3. Thanks, Angela and everyone.

    Lisa, I do find the laptop occasionally uncomfortable, but on the whole it’s been very good. The new built-in keyboards made a huge difference. I just try to keep my back straight and head up. (When I stuffed my neck, I had months to practice this.)

    Yes, Michael, I do find the computer faster. It what I use for opinion pieces and the like. But when I want to muddle, explore, meander, I use the pen. Perhaps when I’m a little more experienced, I’ll do the adventuring in my mind.

  4. I thought you’d like this… “We were sick from an old malady, he said; incurable romanticism and misplaced chivalry, too much Walter Scott and Dumas read too seriously.” – Shelby Foote

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