Picks and Pans Review: Writers in Residence

UPDATED 07/13/1981 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/13/1981 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Glynne Robinson Betts

People who are fans of writers will be drawn to this picture book. Thomas Wolfe's descriptions of his early life contained in Look Homeward, Angel come alive in the photographs of his mother's boardinghouse in Asheville, N.C. Flannery O'Connor's letters from home are quoted—"There is nowhere on this place that you can get a picture without having some ramshackle outbuilding get in it"—and the photos bear her out. Zane Grey wrote his fantasies of life in the Old West in Lackawaxen, Pa., in front of a big fireplace with a writing board over the arms of a Morris chair. Yet not alt photographs are illuminating. The fact that Mark Twain lived in a pseudorustic castle in Hartford, Conn. with the fanciest brickwork money could buy makes clear that he was successful, but says little more. Anaïs Nin's Oriental-style pool and house in Los Angeles look as if they were photographed for House and Garden and cast no light on that woman's intense, feminine prose. Betts, a New York photojournalist, succumbs to trivia when she includes six photos of the incredibly silly junk cluttered around sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury. Her book provides the visual equivalent of gossip, frivolous but occasionally fascinating. (Viking, $16.95)

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