From The Desk Of

The latest book from the desk of Nicole Krauss entitled Great House goes on sale today. It’s about an enormous desk more so than a great house (the title is explained late in the book), but Enormous Desk doesn’t captivate a reader’s attention in the same manner the desk captivates its owners. The desk, unlike the book, never goes on sale, but changes hands freely. Its worth is so great that it can only be given from one writer to another.

Krauss chronicles the lives of a few of the writers who have received and relinquished the desk, possessed by it as much as it was in their possession. Although their lives intersect at the point of exchange, each one is compartmentalized in long chapters as if stored in one of the desk’s numerous oddly sized drawers.

In reading The History of Love I was astonished by her ability to evoke the voice of an elderly male Polish immigrant. In Great House Krauss inhabits a full cast of characters, male and female, of various ages and nationalities. Each account is told in the first person with a unique voice. Only one is told by one of the writers; the rest are told by someone close to them.

As Leon Uris wrote, “Writing is unfair. It takes from everyone – the writer, the wife, the children. Everyone’s blood ends up in the pages.” Or on the desk, which becomes a sacrificial altar. Its hulking presence is symbolic of the disaffected relationships of the writers who practice their craft upon it.

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