Literary Space – Michael Gross

Michael Gross, UK science writer and author of The Birds, the Bees and the Platypuses and many others, says:

This is the bottom end of a converted garage at the back of our garden, which I once used exclusively as my office, but three years ago my teenage daughter moved into the front part of the building and is now expanding her chaos into my office, so it’s two people’s chaos really.

Dangling from the ceiling you see a set of GeoMag (steel balls and small rod magnets) with which I build dynamic toys, such as a chaotic double pendulum once in a while, as well as my daughter’s first shoes, which don’t fit any more. Those were the days when she only needed one pair!

On the left wall the Shakira posters are mine, not hers, but she doesn’t mind too much as we agree on most musical matters. On the wall at the back there is a romantic photo of Oxford ripped from the magazine Oxford Today for which I write, then framed covers of three of my books, then a pin board with various memorabilia, but excluding people. Out of view on the right hand side there is a second board with photos of friends and family. The three graces on top of the board are Paz Vega from one of my favourite movies (Lucia y el sexo, by Julio Medem), then an anonymous one from a magazine ad, and finally a postcard from Cordoba showing an ‘oranges and lemons’ by Julio Romero de Torres (partially obscured by the shoes).  In the bottom right corner of the board another postcard of a painting, this one by Alexander Calvelli, showing a narrow street in Regensburg, Germany, close to where we lived. To the left of it there is a printout from the website ‘Escher in Lego’ created by someone who had clearly too much time and too many Lego bricks on their hands. Google it, it’s hilarious.

The desk at the right hand side is mine. Until a month ago, it used to have a 1994 Macintosh computer on which I’ve written most of my books and articles, and which is still working, but I’ve now decommissioned it and moved it to the attic because communication with the outside world was via floppy disks, and it is increasingly difficult to find other computers that read these. So now there is my daughter’s laptop which I use when she’s at school. When she needs it, I go to the University library, which isn’t very far. When she goes off to uni this october I may have to buy one for myself which I very rarely do. To the left of the laptop there is the pile of papers (research articles, newspaper clippings, etc.) which I currently use for work. Except that, if you dig down into the pile you may find things that I used two or three years ago, so there is a geological layer structure to it. But most of the stuff I file after use into cardboard boxes in a shelf on the right. I keep paperwork for at least five years, as I often come back to topics I’ve covered, either for a follow-up, or to re-use them in book format.

The desk on the left was supposed to be for her laptop, that’s why it has her printer, but as the laptop moves around a lot, it has covered with miscellaneous stuff.

On the far left you can just see part of a shelf which has reference works – you see the French dictionary Le Petit Robert, which is the best ever, and I’m always scared to think what size Le Grand Robert may be. This shelf also has an old CD player which works fine as long as the temperature is above 15 C, but may go on strike after a cold night. Plus my CDs, and copies of the books I’ve written.

Out of view to the left of the camera, there is a double bookshelf dividing the space into the office and bedroom part, with a small collection of other people’s pop science books and the lever arch files with the archives of my collected writings for newspapers and magazines. In the bottom left corner of the photo, that’s just a pile of random stuff that has accumulated in the middle of the room. Oh, in theory there’s an armchair underneath that pile, but it’s been years since I’ve last seen that one.

See also in this series – Paul Morgan, Damon Young, and Caroline Petit. If you’re a writer, I’d love to hear from you… email contact in ‘About Angela‘.

4 thoughts on “Literary Space – Michael Gross

  1. In “His Dark Materials”, every person’s soul takes on a material existence in the shape of an animal. It’s the same for my thoughts, they take some material shape and settle on the first horizontal surface they find. Best I can do is to distil them into articles and books so they take up less space …

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