Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Into the Windows
I've been reading Louise DeSalvo's engrossing new book which, among a number of things, thinks about moving--and dream houses--through the experiences of various writers. I knew Mark was one of those writers discussed in its pages, but I didn't expect to read about the two of us, and our years on Fire Island. I think I can detach myself enough from our appearance in the book to say it is lovely and funny and unexpectedly moving. Here's a passage from the first chapter.
from On Moving: A Writer's Meditation on New Houses, Old Haunts, and Finding Home Again
In the moves I imagine myself making, I'm always living in a perfect place. A house that doesn't leak during heavy rains. One with no musty smells in the basement. One without walls that crack and need repair. A home without a filthy oven that needs cleaning. A place where there will be no health problems, no marital problems, no financial woes, no income tax, no work that feels banal and boring.
Throughout my life, as I've walked down one street or another, either in my hometown or in the places I've traveled, I've looked into the windows of houses and imagined myself living there. I imagine the sun shining through these windows in a way that it doesn't in the house I inhabit. I think about how, in these new places, I will become the self I have not yet managed to be. Thinking like this helps me stop thinking about the problems I face in my work and in my life. If only I could live in this brick house with the lovely side garden, in this clapboard house with the solarium, in this apartment overlooking Central Park, in this whitewashed cottage overlooking the Adriatic, then I could do what I haven't yet done: write a historical novel, knit a modular coat combining all the colors of the rainbow, bake a perfect artisinal bread, listen to all Beethoven's late quartets, and finally, finally read all the writings of Proust. I never think about the people who currently live there, their joys and sorrows; I never think about what life is like for them or the challenges they face. I never recall I've felt pretty much the same wherever I've lived--the tiny apartment when I was in my twenties or the mock Tudor where I spent thirty-plus years.