‘Lives of Houses’

Michael Dirda at the Washington Post:

Two of my favorite essays, by Seamus Perry and Sandra Mayer respectively, offer guided tours of W.H. Auden’s apartment at 77 St. Mark’s Place in New York, where the poet lived between 1954 and 1972, and his late-in-life Kirchstetten house in Austria. Auden famously united minimum attention to his living conditions with maximum regard for routine and order. He wore the same suit day after day, padded around Manhattan in carpet slippers and utilized his kitchen sink as a toilet. Composer Igor Stravinsky called him “the dirtiest man I have ever liked.” Relying on literary journalism to pay his bills, Auden toiled at his desk every day from 9 a.m. till 4 or 5 p.m., then enjoyed a massive cocktail or two, sat down to a well prepared dinner promptly at 6 and toddled off to bed as early as 9:00, sometimes shooing guests out the door. In Austria, the poet acquired a yellow Volkswagen, eventually used as the getaway car in a series of robberies committed by a longtime lover.

more here.