IF THESE WALLS HAD EARS by James Morgan

IF THESE WALLS HAD EARS

The Biography of a House
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Seeking ``continuity, connectedness, permanence,'' Morgan, a former editor at Playboy, tells the rich and profoundly human history of his 70-year-old Little Rock, Ark., house, and of the people and families who lived there. Built in 1923 by Charlie and Jessie Armour, 501 Holly Street (in Bill and Hillary's old neighborhood) is ``a bungalow in the Craftsman style . . . low-slung and solid.'' Morgan became intrigued with the two-story, 3,200-square-foot structure and with those who once called it ``home.'' Preliminary digging led him to the elderly daughter of the Armours; she shared family albums and often quite personal recollections, as did many of the former residents. Births, weddings, divorces, menopausal crises, marital spats, parties, rebellions, bankruptcy--life and all its joys and trials are recorded here. The Armour family would stay in the house through the Depression and WW II; the next tenants, the Murphrees, lived at 501 Holly ``for nineteen long years, from the big band era to the Beatles.'' Morgan takes it as a sign of social and cultural change that the first two families lived in the house for a total of 43 years, while the next six owners have come and gone over the past 29. As the other families move in and out, the author peels away layers of paint, wallpaper, linoleum, and carpeting, recording renovations and repairs as well as changes in decor. But this chronicle, ostensibly about the house, becomes finally a history of the concept of ``home'' in America over the past three-quarters of a century. Morgan, following two emotional divorces and unhappy uprootings from earlier homes, finds himself rejuvenated and grounded here. ``This old house,'' he writes, ``with its flawed past and its walls gone gray, will always be identified in my memory as the place where I knocked and they let me in.'' A rich, profound, fully realized study of how a house becomes a home. (b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 23rd, 1996
ISBN: 0-446-51914-6
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1996