2 captures
06 Jan 2011 - 07 Feb 2011
About this capture
Tea partyers may be getting all the attention, but the centrist wings of both parties remain the fulcrum in Congress.
Seth McLaughlin
BOOK REVIEW: 'A Skeptic's Guide to Writers' Houses'
By John Greenya
The Washington Times
8:02 a.m., Friday, December 31, 2010
View Comment(s)
Enlarge Text|Shrink
Do you think the Senate should alter its filibuster rules?
View results
By Anne Trubek
University of Pennsylvania Press, $24.95 165 pages
Before you read this book, check out the picture of the author on the inside back cover. What do you see - skepticism or sarcasm? By the time you finish the book, I think you'll agree with me that it is the latter. One way or the other, it is definitely a book with a lot of attitude.
In 10 chapters, each of which contains a charming pen-and-ink sketch of the house to be visited, the author goes from one end of the country to the other, in all directions. Eventually, we accompany her to Key West for you-know-who's house; to California to visit Jack London country; Camden, N.J., for Walt Whitman; Concord, Mass., for Emerson, et al.; Asheville, N.C., for Thomas (not Tom) Wolfe; several places for the abodes of Samuel Clemens/​Mark Twain; ditto for Edgar Allan Poe; Cleveland for Charles Chesnutt and Langston Hughes; and, in my favorite chapter, Dayton, Ohio, for the home of Paul Laurence Dunbar, the poet who wrote, and Maya Angelou borrowed as a title, "I know why the caged bird sings."
You may have noticed that's only nine sites. That's because the first chapter - "The Irrational Allure of Writers' Houses" - serves as Anne Trubek's introduction to her subject, as well as her explanation of why she took on this admittedly odd pilgrimage.
In June of 2009, an ad for a one-bedroom apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan boasted that "one of the top 5 best novels of 2006" had been written there. Two months later, a new ad with a price tag $25,000 less made no mention of that fact. This leads Ms. Trubek to write, in what sets the tone for the rest of the book, "So much for the presence of a famous writer adding value to the property." (She names him, and he's not all that famous.) "Why do we preserve these houses authors live in," she asks, "Why do we visit them?"
She offers a few possible answers, and then adds personal observations. "Writers' house museums expose the heartbreaking gap between writers and readers. Part of the pull of a writer's house is the desire to get as close as possible to the precise, generative 'Aha!' But we can never get there.
"For me," she writes, "writers' houses are by definition melancholy. They are often obscure, undervisited, quiet and dark. They remind me of death. And they aim to do the impossible: to make physical - to make real - acts of literary imagination. Going to a writer's house is a fool's errand."
Having asserted that point on page five, the author spends the remaining 160 pages attempting to prove it, which makes the book, in effect, an anti-literary travel book, yet very much a pro-literature book. Why read it? Well, for several reasons. For one, Ms. Trubek is a keen observer with a good sense of humor. On occasion, she serves herself a slice of that wry, but for the most part she's putting people down, people like those who visit writers' houses and the guides who work there, whom, she says, "never seem to get" the fool's errand part.
Still, for the pluses cited above, she makes the trip fun, and most of her criticisms are justifiable, if often too snarky for my tastes.
Here are several of her verdicts:
Story Continues →
‹‹ previous12next ››
© Copyright 2011 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
View all comment(s) on this article.
Obama picks Daley to run White House
By Kara Rowland - The Washington Times
President Obama will tap banking executive William Daley, a former Clinton Cabinet official, as his new White House chief of staff, numerous news outlets reported Thursday morning. Published 12:16 p.m. January 6, 2011
Senators seek data on Gitmo detainee transfers
By Eli Lake - The Washington Times
Senate Republicans are pressing the Obama administration for documents that outline procedures used in releasing terrorism-suspect detainees from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, information the Justice Department and State Department have previously withheld. Published 9:19 p.m. January 5, 2011
Democrats in Senate stall over filibuster
By Sean Lengell - The Washington Times
Senate Democrats are so determined to curtail Republican use of the filibuster to block their legislation that they've frozen time — technically speaking — in the hope of hammering out a deal that will prevent what they call an abuse of parliamentary procedure. Published 8:32 p.m. January 5, 2011
Lawmakers recite Constitution on House floorPolitics
Iran says U.S. woman detained on spy charges World
Pakistan government bends to opposition on fuel priceWorld
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
The Common Sense Czar
A satirical look at "career politicians" while striving to create what they fear the most: an army of "informed voters."
Congress discovers the Constitution
New Year’s resolutions for politicians and celebrities
Making Change
People getting involved in helping others and making a difference.
Has your group made a resolution?
Your vote means money for collaboration
Out and About D.C.
Things to do, places to go, new spots to enjoy with friends and family from Norfolk to Washington, D.C., to Delaware and all points inbetween.
New Year's for youth in this or any year
The Brampton Inn: American hospitality paired with European service
Haydon's Soccer Pitch
Covering the world of soccer, including the World Cup, Major League Soccer, D.C. United and the English Premier League.
Lilly, giant of women's soccer, retiring at 39
Beckham heading for Europe on loan?
All site contents © Copyright 2011 The Washington Times, LLC
About | Customer Service | Terms of Use | Contact Us | Privacy
Edit My ProfileEdit PasswordLogoutLog InE-Mail AlertsSUBSCRIBECLASSIFIEDSE-EDITIONRSS