An inventive, erudite analysis from a scholar and homeowner.

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SEX AND REAL ESTATE

WHY WE LOVE HOUSES

Mixing cultural criticism with a belletristic style of writing, Garber (English/Harvard) argues that people love their houses as truly and as passionately as each other.

“The house can be a primary object of affection and desire—not a displacement or a substitute or a metaphor,” writes Garber (Dog Love, 1996). In other words, the quest for the perfect house does not represent, say, a need for security. It’s simply an overlooked, legitimate, and integral component of our yearning: the desire for the perfect house. Garber maintains that houses have been at the heart of romance, particularly middle-class romance, as long as romance has been around. Similarly, she concludes that the concept of the dream house has been a fixture of consumer culture since its inception. Its cousin on steroids, the trophy house, provides Garber with still more examples of how a presumably mundane building can be the locus of desire. She points to Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, in which Daisy’s house has an air of “breathless intensity,” and on the flip side, to Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt, a realtor who, in a fit of self-love, ties his sense of personal authenticity to his profession. It’s possible to find Garber precious, but difficult to blame her for this quality, since it appears to be a necessary element of her attempt to unify two seemingly disparate topics. Consider, for example, the long section about Garber’s personal experience with the Historical Commission of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and its strictures on what colors are permissible for the houses under its jurisdiction. The narrative is fresh and lively, but one does tend to wonder about a Harvard professor spending her days considering the social implications of Colonial Yellow and Essex Green. Then Garber relates these nitpicky issues to the question of nostalgia (which means homesickness), and a method emerges from the madness.

An inventive, erudite analysis from a scholar and homeowner.

Pub Date: July 5, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-42054-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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