A journalist and editor debuts by converting his blog (Daily Rituals) into a book that does precisely what its titles promise.
Although Currey begins with Auden, he does not end with Zola (who does not appear); instead, he offers an idiosyncratically arranged collection of snapshots—scores of them—that show us how various writers, painters, musicians, choreographers and architects go—or went—about their days. Some are unremarkable. They get up and go to work for a set number of hours at a desk every day. But many are as eccentric as you would expect—and hope. William H. Gass writes best when he’s angry. Nabokov wrote in pencil on index cards and sorted them later. Schiller loved the inspirational smell of rotting apples. Some (Plath, Munro) learned to work while raising children. Some were night owls—Kafka, Proust, Samuel Johnson. B.F. Skinner—no surprise—conditioned himself to observe strict routines. Gertrude Stein and Richard Wright liked to write alfresco. Thomas Wolfe fondled himself while writing standing up. Proust and Capote wrote in bed. Some—Twain, Abbey—had little structures on the property where they could avoid distractions. Quite a few of the artists found ways to boost their energy—from the companionship of coffee to the buzz of Benzedrine. Alcohol was a reward for some at the end of the stint. And many of them found exercise a necessity. Oliver Sacks likes swimming; Dickens walked for three hours in the afternoon (myriads of these artists had walking routines); Twyla Tharp worked out for two hours every morning. The sequence is fun to follow and figure out—some are easy, some not: Martin Amis follows father Kingsley; Henry James follows brother William; Charles Schultz follows Anne Rice?
The message? There is no preferred way—only the ways that work. An enjoyable book to dig into here and there.