Idle Doodles by Famous Authors


Everybody doodles. There’s just something about an idle moment and a blank space on a page that invites a little design or two. Plus, there is some evidence that active doodlers are also active thinkers and imaginers. After all, John Keats doodled flowers in the margins of his manuscripts, and Leonardo DaVinci is famous for his love of doodling. There’s even a whole book dedicated to the doodles our various presidents have scribbled – we hope not while they were supposed to be paying attention to anything important. But everybody’s doodles are different – like dreams, they are culled directly from the loose bits floating around in our brains, and their expression is really only inhibited by the doodler’s physical abilities and/or hand-eye coordination. Authors – especially those who wrote with pens instead of those soulless computer things – are prime doodlers. They have a million ideas going through their heads at once, so it makes sense that something would spill out as a little drawing on the side. Check out our gallery of doodles by famous authors, and let us know what (if anything) you think it tells us about them.

Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath liked to doodle in her diaries, creating illustrations of her life, her dreams, and in this case, her nightmare about being chased by a hot dog and a marshmallow.

[via Kool Things]

David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace draws on Cormac McCarthy’s face. We doubt those glasses and fangs are anything less than respectful.

[via HRC]

Vladimir Nabokov

Nabokov’s drawings and annotations on the first page of Kafka’s the Metamorphosis. He certainly had some thoughts about the language – or at least the translation.

[via Space in Text]

Also, Nabokov’s doodles of (what else?) butterflies on (what else?) a notecard.

[via LIFE]

Franz Kafka

And of course, Kafka’s own doodles, many of which have made their way into his books, particularly the man at the desk. Poor Franz.

Samuel Beckett

Beckett’s doodles from the “Watt” notebooks are as weird and wide as his writing.

[via HRC]

Allen Ginsberg

When recipients were willing, Ginsberg would often inscribe books with a little something extra. We’re not sure what to make of all the “AH”s – anyone know? Our best guess: the seed syllable ‘ah’ in ‘Om Ah Hum’.

[via Poet’s Path]

Mark Twain

Okay, so these are more than idle doodles – they’re instructions to Twain’s printer regarding the weather indicators he drew at the start of each chapter, “to save the space usually devoted to explanations of the state of the weather in books of this kind.” Always thinking, that Mark Twain.

[via Twainia]

Henry Miller

From Miller’s insomniac period. Definitely the creations of an over-excited mind.


Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut’s doodles are well known, as they have been incorporated into many editions of his work and are even serving as elements of the covers in recent printings. However, that doesn’t make them any less great. You know what that asterisk is.

Charles Bukowski

This doodle is attached to a letter he wrote to the Sycamore Review, published in issue 3.2. We have no idea what it is supposed to be. A “good doggie”? A guy with a big nose and a bottle of whiskey? We don’t know.

[via Sycamore Review]

Jorge Luis Borges

[via NDU]

Borges’ self-portrait, drawn after he had gone blind.

Any theories on our doodlers or famous doodles we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments!