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Like the house built by Ann Peters’s father on a hill in eastern Wisconsin House Hold offers many views cornfields and glacial lakes fast food parking lots and rural highways Manhattan apartments and Brooklyn brownstones Peters revisits the modern split level where she grew up in Wisconsin remembering her architect father Against the background of this formative space she charts her roaming story through two decades of New York City apartments before traveling to a cabin in the mountains of Colorado and finally purchasing an old farmhouse in upstate New York            More than a memoir of remembered landscapes House Hold is also an expansive contemplation of America a meditation on place and property and an exploration of how literature shapes our thinking about the places we live A gifted prose stylist Peters seamlessly combines her love of buildings with her love of books She wanders through the rooms of her past but also through what Henry James called “the house of fiction” interweaving personal narrative with musings on James Willa Cather William Dean Howells Paule Marshall William Maxwell and others Peters reflects on the romance of pastoral retreat the hazards of nostalgia America’s history of expansion and land ownership and the conflicted desires to put down roots and to hit the road Throughout House Hold she asks how places make us who we are

10 thoughts on “House Hold

  1. says:

    It's said that dreams of houses are dreams of identity; that if the midnight realm of the subconscious is indeed symbolic then home is the structural representation of me Ann Peters tugs at the thread of this symbol teasing it out into the light with a memoir driven by the places she's known She reflects in a rich and deliciously complicated way on how her dwelling in the world began at the architectural discretion of her parents an ancestral selection that took hard and fast spiritual root and served perhaps to predispose her to the later spaces she would choose to inhabitShe begins with the house her father built a naturalist's refuge nestled against a ridge of limestone at the tail end of the Niagara Escarpment With the story of this house comes the story of this father who may or may not have been functionally bi polar and at whose college desk Frank Lloyd Wright once paused perused and pronounced I don't think you will be a great architect But you will be a great builder While Ann did not appreciate the judgment her father held onto it for the rest of his life as a point of pride And with the story of this house and this father come the many literary touchstones of building home and place William Dean Howell Philip Roth Henry James Here the memoir extends with astonishing fluidity to encompass a meditation on America and the American Dream; to land and frontier; possession and dispossession movement and fearWe shift through the seasons and scenes of a burgeoning instinct to take flight and arrive in due course at New York City where the author addresses what it takes to find a place to live and keep it and what it means to be part of that constructed urbanity; what it meant to the native the transplant the immigrant the pioneer Willa Cather Maeve Brennan Walt Whitman Sherwood Anderson The miserable delight of the Manhattanite trapped between the rock of a forward driving cosmopolitan future and the hard place of The Good Old Days that siren call of nostalgia; the incessant back and forth between the teeming metropolis and the tranuil town; solitude and community; the temporary outpost versus the permanent homeAnn Peters is that rare author whose intellect inhabits the page perpetually active in its uest to expand evolve deduce Her thoughts are keen and febrile; her analysis striving; her insights like half thrown pots she is in constant motion to coax into fuller expression Few writers can bring this sense of fresh formulation to the craft and even fewer to the art of memoir which is by its very nature a reconstitution Frankly at certain stages in the reading I simply sat back and threw stars at her all those stars I had left over from the less than stellar stuff I've been reading of late It's safe to say this memoir of place is worth attention than it will ever receive A stylized gem of a work that uite succeeded in humbling me

  2. says:

    Took longer to read this book as I wanted to savor the author’s description of place and what different things that means to individuals Picked up several new authors to try Maeve Brennan for one

  3. says:

    In her lyrical and intriguing memoir House Hold Ann Peters explores the shaping of literature through place; the shaping of place through literature; and the shaping of her own life through both Peters’ memoir does what all good memoirs should do it discovers the universal in the personal As we journey with her from Wisconsin to New York City to upstate rural New York from Willa Cather to William Dean Howells to Henry James from her small nook” of a childhood bedroom to her city apartments to her open farmhouse we journey through our own nooks and crannies the places we felt safe or exposed the books that saved us the people who tried their best but ultimately let us down Peters never shies away from the nuances and contradictions of the American myth “having been raised in a place and a time where a sense of loss like the bookshelves or kitchen cabinets came already built in” She is not only a gifted writer she’s a gifted thinker The prose is laced with a depth of reflection seldom found now in our uick read page turning society This is the book one savors with a pot of tea; this is the book one returns to again and again to unearth the layers of thought within—to unearth one’s own built in sense of loss

  4. says:

    Probably the best memoir I have ever read It may have just been my mood or paralleled well with another author I'm currently enjoying Hamlin Garland but I loved this book Really hard to describe in a way that does it justice but it is a personal tale of architectureplace as formationreflection of character with explanations enhanced by literary references And I thought the writing was just flawless

  5. says:

    A bit of a shoo in for me as I grew up in a visionary house myself so I could relate well to the importance the author places on her childhood home A really deft blend of memoir with architectural and literary criticism Reminded me a bit of Elif Batuman's The Possessed in that respect

  6. says:

    Whew What I thought to be a memoir consisting of memories related to places turned out to be so much in Ann Peters’ House Hold A Memoir of Place Peters an English professor also offers the reader a mini survey course of sorts of literature which pertains to dwellingsRaised in Wisconsin and eventually finding her way to New York City Peters describes the architecture of each home as well as the people associated with said residences using insightful rhetoricHomesickness the longing for a familiar landscape was part of it and homesickness of course has as much to do with what one wanted and didn’t get as it does with the facts of the past 12I liked the reminiscing but still I was surprised by it It occurred to me that the reuirements for authenticity had changed no longer defined by staying put but by a hunger for shared memory Of course lots of people were still around who could talk to Betty about those early days but it was as if my memories seemed pure because they had not been altered by the new taverns or been crowded out by all the new people who had since moved out to the ledge In leaving I’d frozen the Holy Land in time 81Besides her deep analysis Peters presents the players in her memoir with uncanny descriptionIn obvious ways Kathryn was the urbane of the two the one who seemed most like what I imagined city people to be uick competitve fast talking She had a flair for satire and for rage I see fuzzily the Watergate trials blasting from a television and then my grandmother a lifelong Democrat cursing from the couch before sending a book hurtling at the screen At the bridge table she bested all the ladies in town and when she played Scrabble with her grandchildren she would not be moved by discrepancies in age or education giggling gleefully when she dropped her x on the triple letter score 118Oooh how I love that above description of her grandmotherFurther Peters philosophy on teaching and reading makes my heart go pitter patI usually tell my students that on a second reading of a book you go back and notice what you are trying to ignore or resist Or you identify the places in the text that lull you the places where you find yourself unthinkingly giving in 214When discussing Jefferson the summerweekend home purchased by Peters and her husband she tells of the need to tackle the perennial garden and raised vegetable gardens already in place Although admiring her mother’s gardening as a child “ Peters never paid attention to how she created it So much excitement at the beginning By August vegetables rotting on the vine” 238 With a smile this uote brought to mind my own laziness in terms of gardening especially towards the end of the growing seasonA discussion of House Hold A Memoir of Place accompanied with a small tray of cheese and olives as Peters often did with Dee at 113 12 West Fifteenth Street would be ideal for that feeling of home

  7. says:

    This is the first memoir I've finished inwella long time Not my genre For that reason it didn't earn a 5 star rating because I've yet to find ANY memoir that turns my pages This came close though It's a gorgeously written book with exuisite metaphors and attention to detail but not to the point of yawn I do know Ann's mother which prompted me to begin the book but her sincerity humor and superb pacing kept me going to the end This is a beautiful story of a normal life told through the places she inhabited over the years an idea I wish I'd thought of myself The characters are genuine not without flaws yet not so over the top angst ridden as I find most memoir characters to be House Hold made me think of all my own old haunts and how they too helped to arrange me as I am I do recommend this and hope that I get to hear her read from it some day Am also dying to get in the car and drive past her first house

  8. says:

    Fascinating look into the concept of home We live in houses but what makes a home? How do we remember our childhood places?Ann Peters recalls her family home outside of Fond du Lac Wisconsin Her father's unusual house design and location gives Peters plenty to mull over now that she is an adult She talks of fitting in of running from and to the places we call home

  9. says:

    Ann poignantly shares from the rural to NYC and back through the eyes of where she called home Tightly woven with past literary comparisons some of which are now on my reading list House Hold is delightfully nostalgic and painfully current I can't wait for part 2

  10. says:

    There were parts of this that were truly awesome It gave me a lot to think about it terms of place and memory and meaning and that was very useful I had a hard time relating to the narratorAnn though and that made it kind of a bummer