Short Saturday: Here’s What I Hate About Writers’ Houses

I’m not even sure how I stumbled on this, but I am utterly charmed by this cranky discussion of homes as museums:

Here’s what I hate about Writers’ Houses: the basic mistakes. That art can be understood by examining the chewed pencils of the writer. That visiting such a house can substitute for reading the work. That real estate, including our own envious attachments to houses that are better, or cuter, or more inspiring than our own, is a worthy preoccupation. That writers can or should be sanctified. That private life, even of the dead, is ours to plunder.

Once long ago someone took me to visit Shakespeare’s house in Stratford. I couldn’t go inside; it felt like snooping, it felt like preening, as if we could own a piece of him for ourselves. As far as I know, the only way to claim our real inheritance from Shakespeare is by reading and studying and memorizing—and, if we are lucky, by acting—his words.

I totally get it, I do. But for me it’s more about history—what did a kitchen look like in the 1930s? in the 1830s?—and an insatiable love of Sunday afternoon open houses (if I got your hopes up, Ms. Realtor, please forgive me; I was just curious). A house museum is just my cup of tea! My fave is Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home in Scottsdale, Arizona.

UPDATE: There’s more on this subject here.

Tweet: What did a kitchen look like in the 1930s? in the 1830s?

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  1. Posted 7 April, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Out here in Sonoma County, we have an entire museum devoted to the cartoonist Charles Schultz. Surprisingly, it’s a totally cerebral experience–people standing around reading cartoon strips which means it’s not the greatest spot for children who can’t read.

    But the best part is, they’ve recreated Schultz’ library/workroom with his desk and ALL the books on the shelves. It’s the best part of the museum and what a surprising selection of books he had!

    • Jamie
      Posted 9 April, 2012 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      Love that. :) I do understand this writer’s nerves. The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is in the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr was killed. You end up in his room. This isn’t exactly a house museum, but close. And quite eerie.

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  1. […] (most recently the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta). Of course, the article I featured in “Here’s What I Hate About Writers’ Houses” was a little cranky about the phenomenon, but in “Author Worship” there’s a link to a much […]

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