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Two-Typewriter Homes: Famous Literary Roommates

Recently, The Rumpus dug up a great article from a 1998 edition of the LA Times, wherein Saul Bellow describes living with Ralph Ellison in a grand old house in upstate New York. Inspired by this pairing, we decided to poke around to try and find out which other famous writers have lived together, whether before they became famous, while scribbling away, or as established authors living the high life. Just to be clear — we’re not counting famous literary couples (or at least not constant ones, anyway). That’d just be too easy. Click through to read about a few literary greats who split the rent, and you might start looking at that aspiring novelist roommate of yours in a whole new light.

Saul Bellow and Ralph Ellison

Almost 60 years ago, Saul Bellow and Ralph Ellison lived together for a while in a very wonderful sounding house in Tivoli, NY. If we can believe Bellow’s account of the experience in the LA Times, it sounds truly divine: “Ralph drove into Tivoli in his huge old Chrysler. He himself serviced it, coddled it, tuned it, and it ran as smoothly as it had when it came off the assembly line. The trunk, when it was opened, gave me my first hint of Ralph’s powers of organization. For hunting there were guns, there were decoy ducks; for fishing, rods, lures and a wicker-work creel; there were tools of every description. Ralph was able to repair radios and hi-fi equipment. I envied him his esoteric technical skills… He did not come alone. He was accompanied by a young black Labrador retriever who jumped from the Chrysler, eager to play, pawing my chest. Ralph had bought the dog from John Cheever, who was then, briefly, a breeder of black Labs… In the ballroom Ralph kept African violets which he watered with a turkey baster. It was from him that I learned all that I know about houseplants.”

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