By Shawn Wen
Think of all the ways to love a book. There’s the exhilaration of reading a book for the first time, a pleasure which can never be recreated. Then, there is the close reading, which involves repetition, analysis, perhaps even committing passages to memory. But a specific kind of literary fan loves more than the book. Love is transferred onto the writer. How did the writer put this book together? How did the writer live? What did the writer eat, see, feel? Airbnb has the perfect wishlist for this reader.
“Homes of Famous Authors: A Wishlist by Airbnb” allows literary fans to stay at John Steinbeck’s writer studio or inside Aldous Huxley’s eco-cabin. Perhaps it falls short of having dinner with your favorite author, but isn’t it almost as good to look out at the same views and pace around the same room?
John Steinbeck‘s studio in Pacific Grove, California: The site closest for San Franciscans to visit is John Steinbeck’s writer’s studio in Pacific Grove. The listing claims that Steinbeck did his daily work in the cottage, where he penned The Log from the Sea of Cortez. The nearby Ocean Avenue inspired Steinbeck’s book Cannery Row, in which he wrote, “Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.” Ocean Avenue was later officially renamed Cannery Row in Steinbeck’s honor.
James Joyce‘s “Character Filled Georgian Apt” in Dublin: This converted apartment occupies one floor of the Belvedere House, James Joyce’s alma matter and the setting for much of “Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.” Joyce described his hometown as a down-at-its-heels city full of frustrated, sexual, rough-mouthed residents. He loved the city, once saying, “I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book.”
Francisco de Quevedo‘s “aWesome cHic mAdrid” flat: This refurbished apartment in Madrid was once the home of Francisco de Quevedo, a famous poet and satirist of Spain’s Golden Age. In his lifetime, this Spanish nobleman fought in duels, publicly lampooned other writers, and got himself exiled. And, if he’s not famous enough for American readers, no worries, Miguel de Cervantes is rumored to be buried right downstairs in the Trinitaria’s Convent at the building’s entrance.
Miguel des Cervantes‘ “PORT VELL DUPLEX” in Barcelona: Miguel des Cervantes once lived in this tiny, 100 square foot apartment in the heart of Barcelona. Cervantes is deliberately vague about some of the towns and cities where “Don Quixote” is set, with the exception of Barcelona. It’s in the Barcelona chapters that Don Quixote and Sancho Panza “trembled in the breeze and kissed and swept the water” when they saw the ocean for the first time.
Alexander Dumas‘ old Montmartre apartment in Paris: This spacious apartment in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris is the former residence of Alexander Dumas. In his most popular novel, The Three Musketeers, Paris is almost a character unto itself; the city is mentioned 113 times. Even in the 1840s, Paris was the City of Lights. Dumas described the night sky above Paris as a “vast void from which glittered a few luminous points.”
Aldous Huxley‘s “Ecocabin” in San Cristobal, New Mexico: This cabin at the Taos Goji Ecolodge have served as a temporary home for Aldous Huxley, where he wrote Ends and Means. Huxley first visited New Mexico on a pilgrimage to visit D. H. Lawrence’s widow, Frieda Lawrence, and the land ignited his literary imagination. In his book Brave New World, New Mexico becomes the site of the Savage Reservation, where people are allowed to live in a pre-dystopian culture.
Charles Dickens‘ London apartment: This one bedroom is the former workspace of Charles Dickens. Here, he founded All the Year Round, a Victorian weekly literary magazine, which serialized and published his novels, including Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities. The London of Dickens’ lifetime was an urban wonder with a population of two million people. It was then the largest city in the world. In Bleak House, Dickens wrote of his urban muse: “Foot passengers, jostling one another’s umbrellas in a general infection of ill-temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if the day ever broke)…”