OPEN HOUSE by Mark Doty


Writers Redefine Home
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A variety of writers present different definitions of “home” in this uneven assortment of essays, some previously published.

As editor of the fifth installment in Graywolf’s Forum series, poet Doty gives himself the first and nearly the last word. (One short essay follows his at the end.) He begins by observing that we’re all trying to find “home,” whatever that may mean to each of us, and ends with a piece about how a 19th-century painted panorama in the Netherlands serves as a metaphor for Life. Elizabeth McCracken lovingly describes the Des Moines homes of her grandparents. Honor Moore writes about leaving an old house in Connecticut where she lived for 30 years and finding a new home in New York City. She is one of several writers who allude to 9/11, with Mary Morris providing the most effective image: from a subway crossing the Manhattan bridge on September 12, “people stare at the space where the Twin Towers stood and they begin to cry. Inexplicably, silently, the entire car is filled with weeping people.” Morris’s “home,” by the way, is the subway; it’s where she reads, writes, thinks. For a number of the writers, Doty included, sexuality and home are inextricably entwined. Michael Joseph Gross finds he’s more at home having sex with strangers than he is being in the home of his parents, who had difficulty accepting his homosexuality. Reginald Shepherd—in an overlong, overwrought rumination—discovers that his home is Robert, his lover. Spunky spelunker Barbara Hurd considers caves and the comfort conferred by hidden spaces. Bernard Cooper defines home as the passions you pursue and eventually inhabit—in his case, pop art. Sensibly, the editor ends with a poignant, provocative piece by Victoria Redel, whose severe scoliosis forced her to inhabit a Milwaukee body brace 23 hours a day throughout her teenage years.

Unremarkable variations on an unremarkable theme: Home is where you feel at home.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2003
ISBN: 1-55597-382-5
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Graywolf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2003


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