A loving wife and cat, some cheap furniture...Jesse Thistle has everything he needs to write here
The author of From the Ashes has built a comforting writing world in his home office
Leading up to Canada Reads, CBC Arts is bringing you daily essays about where this year's authors write. This edition features From the Ashes author Jesse Thistle.
There's a cheap Persian-style rug splayed across my office floor. It cost around $100. I got it at Ikea.
The chair that sits atop the rug is brown patent leather and half the size of a full-sized chesterfield. I picked it up at Costco one day after I got my executive membership and felt like a bigshot. The chair, I now know, is a real piece of crap. The piston broke a month after I purchased it, so the seat kind of just squats low, hiking my knees up at an odd angle until my lower back hurts.
My desktop is made in Thailand. It's the wine-coloured "left-L unit" model with a right credenza, double grommets, and fancy overhead glass doors. It's a package deal that I ordered online when I was hired as a professor last July. Oil from my fingers stains the dark surface whenever I touch it, which forces me to break out the Windex and paper towel when guests come over. It's my first desk of substantial size and I love it, fingerprints and all.
My office window faces south-southwest and in the morning the sun blinds me. Direct sunlight, though, helps with my depression as I hammer out my daily morning dribble on my cordless Mac keyboard — another symbol of my middle-class mediocrity.
I place my memoir and other works beside those authors I want to be like but fear I can never match in skill, or thoughts, or coolness. My book, though, looks like it belongs there with them.- Jesse Thistle
Behind me is my wall of books — historians, anthropologists, ancient Greek and enlightenment philosophers, beatnik writers, poets, and Indigenous storytellers. I fit into this last category, I suppose. To prove it, I place my memoir and other works beside those authors I want to be like but fear I can never match in skill, or thoughts, or coolness. My book, though, looks like it belongs there with them.
My constant writing companion is my cat Poppy. She's a judgmental female calico — orange, black, and white, nine years old, who seems to care little of what I put to page. She came to me and my wife Lucie one day while we were in the backyard tending to the Brussel sprout patch. Just a three-week-old kitten, she crawled through the fence and sat on my toes. Overtaken with joy, Lucie scooped Poppy into her arms and — without a beat — the cat pooped all over her chest. We instantly fell in love. Ever since, Poppy has sat next to me as I write, perched atop the printer, batting at the pages that come out of my soul and the machine.
Lucie visits Poppy and me periodically, dropping a plate of food, sandwich, water or coffee — anything to keep me going. And she's quiet when she does so. I'm a grouch when I'm writing, don't want to be disturbed, and she knows that I don't mean to be rude, I just have no other way to stay focused on a story other than barking. Lucie, God love her, looks beyond my grumblings. She even has an internal beat on my writing rhythm. She shows up, most times, right when a piece is finished. She then reads and edits everything, as she has done with all my work, and tells me if it's good or if it sucks — and she's always right. I don't know how she knows this, but she does. Finding that kind of honest critic with an eye toward what will connect with an audience is hard. I know this, and I love her for it.
So, there you have it; that's my little writing world. There's not much to it other than some misplaced purchases, my cat, and a loving wife — but it's mine, and it seems to work for me and my little stories.