The Childhood Home as Destiny

Conjure up the house you grew up in and you will instantly recall the friendships you made in grammar school, the scars you got on the playing field, your first passion for poetry or microscopes, the day you felt the first pangs of regret, the moment you realized that you were capable of love.

As Rilke observed, “Perhaps it’s no more than the fire’s reflection on some piece of gleaming furniture that the child remembers so much later like a revelation.” Yet that revelation can shape an entire life.

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Poe’s Philosophy of Furniture

In the internal decoration, if not in the external architecture, of their residences, the English are supreme. The Italians have but little sentiment beyond marbles and colors. In France…the people are too much a race of gad-abouts to study and maintain those household proprieties, of which indeed they have a delicate appreciation, or at least the elements of a proper sense. The Chinese, and most of the Eastern races, have a warm but inappropriate fancy. The Scotch are poor decorists. The Dutch have merely a vague idea that a curtain is not a cabbage. In Spain they are all curtains — a nation of hangmen. The Russians do not furnish. The Hottentots and Kickapoos are very well in their way — the Yankees alone are preposterous.

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The House as Storyteller

I was built in Smyrna in 1890, the year of Esma’s birth. A slender, many-roomed Victorian dwelling of wormwood, snuggling against an unworldly, umbrageous rock—obsidian, rumored to have been lowered down from the sky, the rock that gave the district its name. Karatash, or Black Stone.

Some believed that the myrrh tree in the garden was the actual Adonis trees. They believe it was sacred and left votives and humble offerings on the double altars of its fracture. Others took it to be an ordinary myrrh cracked by natural forces.

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Variations on a Home Depot Paint Sample

To mix Desert Sunrise 230B-4, combine equal parts vodka, orange juice, pineapple juice, and troposphere; add grenadine syrup to taste. Throw in blender with ice cubes and a handful of red dirt. Blend. Next drive westward all night along I-80 until you reach Wyoming, and, when you see in your rearview the faintest tincture of light bleeding into reddish bluffs, pull into the nearest rest stop. Wash your face in the frigid tap water, and next note the uncanniness of your reflection in the warped wrought-iron mirror.

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Literary Homes in Paris

Feminist writer Anna de Noialles set the trend for the ultra-quiet writer’s den. Marcel Proust, followed suit, writing his novels in a sound-proof room.

Some writers do their best work when they withdraw from society, working in a kind of fevered isolation.

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The House as Muse

Any devoted fan of Woolf’s will already be familiar with her fondness for domestic spaces. Her characters meditate on the meaning of life as they arrange the roses in a crystal vase or notice how the sunlight falls upon the pattern in the carpet. For them, the house is a living, breathing thing. A companion for their deepest thoughts.

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A Literary Guide to New York

The death of the book has been greatly exaggerated. Proof positive is Rizzoli’s A Booklover’s Guide to New York, written by Cleo Le-Tan and illustrated by her father, Pierre Le-Tan. Cleo, who was raised in New York, Paris and London, is a literary newcomer but definitely adept at the writing game.

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Fall Reading

Haruki Murakami said, “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you will only think what everyone else is thinking.” So here’s a list of unusual books to curl up with as the weather changes — from Gothic tales for dark and stormy nights and novels set in strange, romantic places.

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Home from the Sea

Melville wrote about sperm whales and harpoons when he was landlocked in Pittsfield, Massachusetts and living in a house of strong-willed women. How can a writer’s desk serve as a creative island?

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