Sunday, September 27, 2015

the last book I ever read (On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks, excerpt seven)

from On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks:

Staying at Oxford after my degree and often revisiting it in the late 1950s, I occasionally glimpsed W. H. Auden around town. He had been appointed a visiting professor of poetry at Oxford, and when he was there, he would go to the Cadena Café every morning to chat with anyone who wanted to drop by. He was very genial, but I felt too shy to approach him. In 1967, however, we met at a cocktail party in New York.

He invited me to visit, and I would sometimes go to his apartment on St. Mark’s Place for tea. This was a very good time to see him, because by four o’clock he had finished the day’s work but had not yet started the evening’s drinking. He was a very heavy drinker, although he was at pains to say that he was not an alcoholic but a drunk. I once asked him what the difference was, and he said, “An alcoholic has a personality change after a drink or two, but a drunk can drink as much as he wants. I’m a drunk.” He certainly drank a great deal; at dinner, either at his own place or someone else’s, he would leave the meal at 9:30 p.m., taking all the bottles on the table with him. But however much he drank, he was up and at work by six the next morning. (Orlan Fox, the friend who introduced us, called him the least lazy man he had ever met.)

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