Reflections on Life Under a Roof
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Humorous, genial tales of living in a small New England town, in a big old house demanding a handyman’s talents that New Yorker writer Owen (The Walls Around Us, 1991, etc.) doesn’t possess. Here are a fistful of quick sketches, fruity and clever, about the pitfalls and bonuses of owning a rambling 19th-century house, about encroaching middle age and the growing children who make that state of affairs so obvious, about knowing you have a pretty good job and an even better life but are forever dreaming of more. Owen is like a chummy frat pal full of ideas about optimizing goof-off time and who can write about it with easy grace. These collected pensÇes are mostly spot on, if obvious—he notes that —learning by doing invariably means learning by doing wrong” and that one might resent weekenders to his village, who “pump money into the town, often recklessly,— but at least they “don’t pump hazardous chemicals into the river.” Then there are times when he trots out one too many Owenisms, irksome and bourgeois, that clash with his eccentricity: “a tattered old sweater wouldn’t feel as comfortable if you didn’t also own a three-piece suit,” or “choosing clothes from a pile on a couch seems almost like shopping—an emotional plus.” Then he will make playful with the money issue—as when he is in the “throes of a powerful urge to spend a lot of money belonging to a bank”—and pull readers back into his comfortable groove. He is at his most delightful when cutting across the grain, boasting that of the $22 billion devoted by Americans to their lawns, virtually none was spent by him, and that McDonald’s fries are an ideal open-chain hydrocarbon for removing oil paint from your hands. Reading Owen is like getting a gentle, relaxing massage as opposed to a Rolfing session. His pen is facile, his stories pleasing and fleeting.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-679-45655-4
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Villard
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1998


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