Jul 8, 2015

In which the dogs teach us that no, we can't have a white carpet.

Posted by Cynthia Cravens

Every neighbor we meet tells us about Glo, the sweet lady who owned the house before us. Everyone loved her. She had beautiful rose bushes and an immaculate house. She hosted bridge games and, back in the day, neighborhood cocktail parties. (Evidently, there were regular, open-house cocktail parties in three adjoining neighborhoods down here. But this is a topic for another, longer, post). Everyone who was ever in the house exclaims how much they love it--the flow, the kitchen, the windows. Yes, we say, that's exactly why we bought it. We knew nothing of the rose bushes--it was the end of August when we first saw the house. Nothing of the bridge games, the cocktail parties, or sweet Glo. But we sure noticed the immaculate house--particularly the original white carpet in the living room and dining room. It was old--nearly forty years old--and it was spotless. We knew, setting our first step on that carpet, we couldn't have a white carpet.

"Oh, you bought Glo's house? She was a friend of my grandmother's. She used to take me with her for her bridge games. What a beautiful house!"

She must have held those bridge games on this white carpet.  She must have served coffee and finger sandwiches--that was what they did. Things must have spilled.

Ah. We found leftover carpet shampoo for a household carpet shampoo vac in the (generously sized!) laundry room downstairs. Judging from the font design and clothing of the happy homemaker on the label, the bottle was at least ten years old. So that was the first secret--a homeowner with white carpet must be a quality carpet shampoo vac owner.

But there were also two kids growing up in this house, one of them a nine-year-old boy. The dirty shoes? The chocolate? The Kool-aid? "She never let me in this room," he told us. "I spent my childhood either in the rec room downstairs or outside."

So, secret two is to never let, really, anyone in the room.

But, as a reader might expect, it's the best room in the house--comfortable, bright, cheery, with great big windows. (I know she must have held those bridge games in here--you can picture the fold-away card table, dining room chairs, washable tablecloth, cloth napkins, and don't you just see a heavy, crystal ashtray? But there was clearly no smoking in this house. The kids would have had to destroy the forty-year-old yellow damask window treatments that hang in this room before putting the house on the market and guess what--the forty-year-old yellow damask window treatments are now our forty-year-old yellow damask window treatments.)

And I like to drink red wine in comfortable, bright, cheery rooms with great big windows.

The only feasible solution, we knew when we signed the paperwork, was to get rid of the white carpet and put in laminate planks.

We didn't get around to it that first year.

The dogs filed many complaints.

Sep 18, 2011

Book Review (click)

On Lee Rourke's The Canal...

     A novel whose epigraph is Martin Heidegger's "We are suspended in dread" would seem to be giving itself a great deal to live up to. Lee Rourke's The Canal, an engaging and disturbing story of a man coming to terms with boredom and the people who seem to challenge his peaceful conception of it, literally sits the unnamed narrator down in the middle of a busy, oblivious, and constantly moving populace to establish its central premise: most people—office workers, dog walkers, gangs of youth, soccer fans—mindlessly fill their lives with pointless activity and entertainment, erroneously trying to snuff out their boredom, unaware of its ultimate and liberating power. Boredom compels us, says the narrator, to do things. Boredom, he insists, is good.

Jan 3, 2010

Sex and the American Male Novelist (click here)

This link: Katie Roiphe's "The Naked and the Conflicted," in the Sunday New York Times.
On Roth, Updike, Mailer, Bellow, Franzen, Chabon, Wallace, and Kunkel.