Apparently, he was less particular about the rest of his furniture, which was reportedly secondhand and unremarkable. Since few photographs exist, his apartment can only be reconstituted in forensic fashion, piecing it together based on those few photographs and some anecdotes. The details of Gould’s living space illuminate his living strategies: how he coped, self-soothed and performed when no one was watching. When he was stuck in Israel using a piano that would not perform well for him, his remedy was to mentally transport himself back to suite 902. He explained: “… I sat in my car in the sand dune and decided to imagine myself back in my living room… and first of all to imagine the living room, which took some doing because I’d been away from it for three months at this point, and I tried to imagine where everything was in the room, then visualize the piano, and… this sounds ridiculously yogistic, I’d never done it before in precisely these terms or anything related to it in terms of precision… but so help me it worked.”
In photos, one room in the apartment looks like an archival storage area with stacks of unprocessed materials, but these piles are the result of a default position: a failure to clean, sort or discard. A photograph of this storage room shows a Grammy used as a paperweight that is half falling off the pile it anchors. His yellow legal pads, strewn throughout the apartment and found after he died, reflect Gould’s sense of interior order. Most of the pads’ contents are obsessive lists. He tracked various functions, maintaining lists related to the stock market, the food he ate, physical symptoms and future plans.
To his fans and many of his peers, his idiosyncrasies were evidence of genius, but his approach did not endear all of his colleagues to him. For instance, there were conductors who complained about his habit of conducting with his left hand while he played with his right. He defended that mannerism in a 1974 interview in Rolling Stone, asserting that such choreography is “surely a private matter between my left hand and my right, and I cannot see why it’s of concern to anybody.” While most biographers have chalked up Gould’s maladies to hypochondria, he is known to have suffered from excruciating back pain and high blood pressure as well as an overreliance on prescription medications. His medicine cabinet included Diazepam, Fiorinal, tetracycline and various sleeping pills prescribed by multiple doctors. In defense of his reputation, Gould insisted, “This pill complex of mine has been grossly exaggerated. Why, one reporter wrote that I traveled with a suitcase full of pills. Actually, they barely fill a briefcase.”
Today, he would likely be given a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, which would explain many of his seemingly unrelated symptoms, including heightened anxiety around his health issues. He did refer to his problems with his hands as “fibrositis,” a more antiquated term with which few were familiar at the time.
Gould wasn’t a total shut-in, despite his reputation. He roved between several spaces that served as annexes to his apartment, including a recording studio he created at a local hotel, the CBC studios and his car. Biographer Kevin Bazzana called his car an “apartment on wheels.” He especially liked to go out late at night.
He explained: “I don’t much care for sunlight, and bright colors of any kind depress me. I schedule my errands for as late an hour as possible and I tend to emerge along with the bats and the raccoons at twilight.” (From The Life and Times of Glenn Gould.) A frequent late-night destination was Fran’s, a 24-hour diner near his apartment. He would sit in the same booth and order the same meal: eggs, side salad, Sanka, tomato juice and orange sherbet.
Close friends dispute Gould’s reputation as asocial or cold. They point to his enthusiastic use of the phone to make connections—sometimes luxuriating in one- or two-hour conversations. He enjoyed the phone so much that he outfitted his car with one of the first mobile models on the market.