Books: Planet of the Mind

A CERTAIN WORLD: A COMMONPLACE BOOK by W.H. Auden. 438 pages. Viking. $10.

Autobiographies or biographies of writers, W.H. Auden has said, "are always superfluous and usually in bad taste. A writer is a maker, not a man of action. His private life is, or should be, of no concern to anybody except himself, his family and his friends." Accordingly, in place of any vulgar chronicle of his life, Auden is offering this wise and diverting annotated anthology.

"Commonplace books" were popular in the 18th and 19th century. Habitual readers kept journals by copying...

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