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Gustav Mahler composed his symphonies from a stone hut in the woods. Truman Capote wrote, and later drank, in bed, while Philip Roth, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, and Vladimir Nabokov wrote standing (the freakishly tall Thomas Wolfe did the same, using a refrigerator). Balzac slept little and maintained a famously tough work schedule with the aid of coffee; W.H. Auden and the mathematician Paul Erdos used mild amphetamines to the same purpose. Gertrude Stein, when chewing over sentences, liked to stare at cows. Marilynne Robinson follows no routine at all. Reading from this addictive little book will quickly become a part of yours (though you may hope, as I do, that future editions will feature more women and minorities). (Knopf)

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