Category Archives: Writing

David Berman of Trustworth Studios, Part Two

Wallpaper: both literally and figuratively in the background…the setting against which the real action takes place. Yawn.

Not.

I’ve been a fan of wallpaper ever since the early 1980s, when my friend Bronwen and I drooled over each new edition of the Laura Ashley catalogue. (I know, you’re thinking “Laura Ashley? How twee. And aren’t their paint colors now sold through Lowe’s?” But those 1980s catalogues were gorgeous productions, not to mention surprisingly forward-looking in their use of dramatic settings to showcase everyday products.) From Laura I graduated to Bradbury & Bradbury, whose swatches I could count on to lift my spirits on even the gloomiest day. Starting in the mid-1990s I became aware of more period wallpaper makers, among them John Burrows, Carol Mead, and the masterly Adelphi Paper Hangings. But for years I’ve had a special fondness for Trustworth Studios.

Among Trustworth’s offerings you’ll find E.W. Godwin’s fabulous Aesthetic creation Bamboo, as well as the luscious Hydrangea, based on an 1896 pattern by Lindsay P. Butterfield. But the main reason why Trustworth has become my go-to source for late-19th century style is Voysey–or more precisely, David Berman’s interpretation of the architect C.F.A. Voysey’s designs. They’re not just gorgeous to behold, but often also funny: Always clever, sometimes dark, they were created by an artist of small stature and large intelligence whose grandfather, an architect, knew Ruskin, and whose father, a reverend, was expelled from the Church of England for denying the doctrine of eternal damnation; he later founded the Theistic Church with help from prominent individuals such as Charles Darwin. More (much more) on that in my book on English Arts & Crafts furniture, which will be published in 2018 by Popular Woodworking.

For now, take a little romp through a fraction of the work by means of which Trustworth Studios patterns come to life. This is no case of crude cutting and pasting.

034

The process begins with David tracing an original design, using a stylus. Here the pattern is Trustworth’s “Falcon and Lily.”

043

Next begins David’s work with color. Look closely at the outlines of the lily petals and you’ll see that they are made up of two lines, one a medium terracotta, the other darker. The same will eventually apply to the stem; here, David is building up its texture.

046

The pattern becomes richer. David is working on the colors and introducing texture to emulate that of the original design, in the following image.

036

047

Here the pattern contains far more detail, but there is still more to go.

Lebus sideboard with Trustworth paper at Popular Woodworking shoot

Here’s “Falcon and Lily” as the background for the book cover shoot at the studio of Popular Woodworking in Cincinnati. That’s Megan in the mirror. As this picture shows, the effect of the paper is quite different when the pattern’s spread across a large area. Instead of reading as a distinct pattern, it imparts to the room a certain feel.

Behind the feathery crown

Whether or not you find a piece of furniture attractive at first sight, your opinion of the piece will certainly be enriched by insight into how it was made.

For years I’d seen a grouping of pieces made by the Showers Furniture Company prominently displayed at the Monroe County History Center:

Showers 2 Showers 1

I thought them grotesque: gaudy, cheaply made, masquerading as something of higher quality than the ample signs of their factory production revealed. But in the course of researching and writing my book about Hoosier cabinets I developed a surprising appreciation for such modest furnishings, which, precisely because of their factory production, were affordable for millions of families during the early 20th century.

So when you look at the odd piece in the snapshot below, where my friend Mary Beth and I were hamming it up for the camera at the opening of a furniture exhibition, I hope you’ll see beyond the goofy, two-dimensional “crown,” the overwrought legs, and the busy mix of wood species to the solid materials, traditional craftsmanship, and scholarship I invested in the piece, which I produced as part of an educational project funded by an Indiana University arts grant.

State Museum Opening w MBR

***

This page from a 1933 edition of the Sears & Roebuck catalog shows the china cabinet pictured above. This model and the other pieces in the suite were sold for several years, into the '30s.

This page from a 1933 edition of the Sears & Roebuck catalog shows the china cabinet and sideboard pictured above. This model and the other pieces in the suite were sold for several years, into the ’30s.

This magazine advertisement shows another popular Showers product: fancy cabinets for radios.

A magazine advertisement shows another popular Showers product: fancy cabinets for radios.

My design followed many hours at the Indiana State Library researching Showers pieces from the early 20th century. It’s a riff on the mass-produced treasures of the 1920s that flaunted the day’s most popular trends for everyman. What’s contemporary about my take is the use of materials that were locally grown or salvaged{1}, with traditional joinery in place of fabrication processes designed for mass-production.

To wit: Traditional mortise and tenon joinery for the drawer section of the three-part ensemble…

Corona 039

… and dovetails, of both the sliding (a.k.a. “French”) variety, as seen below, and the socket variety, cut by hand, in the making of the drawers.

Here’s a shot of the drawer case’s framework–what you see here is the front, where the drawer face will eventually go–routed with a dovetailed slot that will hold the decorative bracket at the left side of the front. The decorative bracket destined to be glued into this dovetailed slot lies on the bench.

Corona 040

To make the legs for the base framework I turned the rounded sections on the lathe, then carved the flutes by hand with a gouge and mallet.

Corona 042

Here’s the base assembly with its front and back rails and center stretcher:

Corona 044

and now the base frame with the drawer case and drawer:

Corona 007

For the solid walnut top of the base ensemble I wanted to carve a gadrooned edge similar to the one on this Mission style library table I’d seen at a junk shop, but without the intermediate veins:

gadroon

My first attempt resulted in this simple version–carved, to be sure, but not what I was aiming at:

Corona 038

After a carving course with Mary May and before the opening of the State Museum show, I made a new top with better carving that looks more “rolled.”

corona edge carving

The door, like the carved top of the drawer assembly, is made from walnut with traditional mortise and tenon joints designed to fit a rabbeted frame. Here’s the top rail with its tenon partly cut:

Corona 020

and here’s one of the mortises with apologies for the fuzzy shot:

Corona 015

The door is hung on traditional non-adjustable butt hinges:

Corona 024

Next came the scrollwork, my favorite feature of the original Showers pieces that inspired Corona Plumosa. Hands-on investigation of the Showers suite at the Monroe County History Center (with kind permission from then-director Diane Ballard) revealed that the original scrollwork was cut from a material not unlike our contemporary medium-density fiberboard (mdf). Armed with this precedent I chose a sheet of discarded 1/8th-inch-thick mdf that had come to my shop as protective packing for an order of custom-veneered panels. Once I’d calculated the dimensions and layout of the scrollwork, allowing for the parts that would be concealed behind the rabbet, I made a full-scale pattern in 1/4-inch plywood and checked everything for size:

Corona 026

… then cut it out using a jigsaw, spokeshave, and files. I actually preferred the unstained version of the scrollwork shown here:

Corona Negra 4, 4.30.12

… but knew that it looked too contemporary for my piece.

Looking through the door in the image just above, you can see one of the animal faces formed by the burly maple when I bookmatched the panels for the back. I didn’t even see the faces until months after I had completed the piece, when I was showing the maple to a client who was considering using the remaining boards I had in stock for a dining table top. He pointed out the faces.

The finished upper cabinet:

Corona 046

{1} Burly silver maple from Joe Davison of Davison Hardwood Quality Specialists in Spencer, Indiana; quartersawn red oak salvaged from a tornado-felled tree that had once grown on the site of Indiana University’s first home; and walnut from a tree that had lived on my husband’s property in western Monroe County.

 

 

 

Interview with Johnny Grey

Issue number 231 of Fine Homebuilding magazine includes my interview with British kitchen designer Johnny Grey, creator of the Unfitted Kitchen.* Due to space constraints, the published version contains only a fraction of the material I took down during a telephone conversation that was over an hour long. Here’s a version with some fascinating bits that had to be excised from the Tailgate interview. Square brackets indicate words inserted for clarity or relocated from other parts of the interview for narrative flow.

1.

What were some of your early influences?

My father was a general practitioner in London. He loved making things. We had no money–you can imagine the scene in postwar Britain–but he said, “I’ll always buy you tools and materials if I can.”

My mother was a bit of a romantic. She had this great passion for the Sussex Downs, [where] she bought a sweet little abandoned cottage. She had a strong vision [for its restoration]; it wasn’t going to be added onto or poshed up. She [also] bought a gypsy caravan and kept it parked in a field at the cottage, visiting on weekends. I was conceived in it. [Eventually there were five kids—four boys and a girl] in a house with just two bedrooms. The caravan became our third bedroom. [But it also played another important role in my life.] Being made of painted softwood with a canvas roof, the caravan was always leaking. It became a rite of passage for each of us to fix this wretched roof. [That was how we] learned woodworking.

2.

What was your training in design?

I studied architecture at the Architectural Association in London [during the ‘70s] It was a place of intellectual ferment, a design hothouse. I was exposed to incredible ideas. Ivan Illich dropped by and gave a talk. Buckminster Fuller gave a talk. Lyall Watson launched his book Supernature [there].

3.

How did you get into kitchens?

It was all a big accident. I disliked the corporate world and loathed the business of my hours being “owned” by other people. Because of my rather bohemian background in Sussex, I felt I couldn’t handle a job where I wouldn’t be making anything. The thing about kitchens is, you can do a bit of everything—design, making, meeting the clients.

Today, the kitchen has become a real place. It used to be a second-rate room for women and servants. In the ‘70s, people began to realize that there was a real role for a kitchen company: to plan the big picture–layout, flooring, lighting, etc.–in addition to cabinetry.

4.

Why “unfitted” kitchens?

I have a strong emotional bond with furniture. [My great-grandmother became an antique dealer after her husband died. My mother, too, loved antiques.] While studying architecture I ran an antique business. I had to develop my own sense of style very quickly, since in that line of work, your living depends on being known for a particular style.

5.

Do you remember any particular kitchen from your early days with special fondness?

[My first job], the Gothic kitchen, was tremendous fun. Every piece in the room was from a different period of gothic, but it had a sort of happenstance unity. My client, Sam, invited the features editor of Harpers to dinner. Before you knew it, Harpers had commissioned a story—Sam would write the recipes, and I would write about the design of the kitchen. A Helmut Newton[-like character] photographed the client sitting with his bottom in one half of the sink, his legs hanging over into the other, and a stuffed parrot on the stove. It was really about being rather lunatic and enjoying ourselves. Don’t forget, at the time, all people were buying were those Poggenpohl[i] kitchens. This was a protest against that.

I was also being egged on by my aunt, Elizabeth David, who wondered, “Why do people want those plastic kitchens that are so hygienic?”

6.

Where are your kitchens built?

[We work with several workshops.] [Some are] bespoke quality, the best furniture money can buy. Some are [outfits] that have moved from joinery into cabinetmaking; they’ve got their costs under control [and have] some very good craftsmen. [We also work with] very small furniture mak[ing shops], using them in groups. We don’t want [the furniture] to match anyway, so it’s perfect.

7.

Where are you now in thinking about kitchen design?

When I first started out, nobody thought the kitchen would be anything of consequence. I want[ed] to steer it into its own territory, where [kitchen design would] stand on its own as a profession. Many people think the kitchen is a place where you fling cabinets around the wall, but I respect the kitchen. I think it’s our best chance of creativity in the home, because it plugs into so many different aspects of home life.

Bringing neuroscience in has been another piece of the puzzle. [The kitchen] is the most emotionally high range room. [Sharing home-cooked food] around a table in your kitchen is the high point of the day, the essence of family life. You have a chance to look outward and inward at the same time, and connect with your family. The hormones that make you human are more likely to be in operation when you’re around the table than at any other time. You have to feel safe. It’s got to be the right time of day to fit into [your] rhythm. [The kitchen] has to make you feel good. It’s got to have enough room to move around and to invite guests. It really has become this absolute room for sociability. You can’t have democracy without a place where you can enjoy the reason for living.

When I published The Art of Kitchen Design, it was the first time anyone had written about the sociable role of the kitchen. Neuroscience validates that social role.

I think I arrived at the right moment, really. What happened to the kitchen would have happened anyway, I think, but I’m glad I was there to be part of it.

*Warmest thanks to Johnny Grey for consenting to this interview and to Chris Hoelck at Fine Homebuilding for his help in getting the piece to the published page.

Vacation reading

A long-anticipated weekend vacation  in New Harmony, Indiana, site of two early-19th century intentional communities, was made all the more thrilling by a trio of books. 

For background, we took along New Harmony Then and Now, a portfolio of artful photography by Darryl Jones with an essay by Donald Pitzer on the history of the place.

Anticipating some time to read for pleasure, I also brought Eric Sandweiss’s newly published book, The Day in Its Color, about salesman-turned-photographer Charles Cushman–who turns out to have been a native of Poseyville, less than ten miles from New Harmony. Sandweiss’s evocative descriptions of the area in which Cushman grew up enabled me to see that sparsely populated corner of the Hoosier state with new eyes.

The Wabash River seen across farm fields from New Harmony

Drama for the weekend was supplied by Edith Sarra’s essay about the Patoka Bottoms, which will appear in an edited volume on historic preservation to be published in the autumn of 2013 by the Indiana University Press. (Sorry; this book is not yet available.) It’s a ghost story of sorts, filled with mystery and adventure. On our way home Mark and I spotted, to our great excitement, the historical marker Sarra mentions in her essay. It stands at the point where State Road 57 crosses the southern Indiana portion of the Wabash and Erie Canal, that mid-19th-century aqueduct,  now defunct, built at monumental cost–not just in dollars, but in workers’ lives.

View down the north side of the embankment

Mark stands in a section of the Wabash and Erie Canal bed, now long dry, which was elevated above the Patoka River bottoms

Small world

What do 19th-century painter T.C. Steele, Harvard philosopher Ralph Barton Perry, and Kurt Vonnegut have in common? I discovered some fascinating connections while researching a story about Steele and the Arts & Crafts Movement for Bloom Magazine.

1

Richard Lieber

1869-1944

Cousin of Hermann Lieber, who was T.C. Steele’s close friend and patron

Founder, Indiana State Parks system

Great-grandfather of Frederic Lieber

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Lieber

2

Hermann Lieber

1832-1908

Bookbinder from Dusseldorf who opened and then operated H. Lieber & Company Art Emporium in Indianapolis

Premier patron of T.C. Steele

(Photo is reproduced from The House of the Singing Winds at the first link below)

http://shop.indianahistory.org/SelectSku.aspx?skuid=1000220

http://maxkade.iupui.edu/indianapolis.html

3

Theodore Clement Steele

1847-1926  

Painter

Founder of the Portfolio (often called the Portfolio Club) in Indianapolis, an organization for artists and writers

http://www.tcsteele.org/site.asp

4

Bernard Berenson

1865-1959

Art historian

Brother-in-law of Ralph Barton Perry, the grandfather of Rachel Perry, author of T.C. Steele and the Society of Western Artists: 1896-1914 (Indiana Press, 2009), and so…

Great-uncle of Rachel Perry

http://www.itatti.it/

5

Ralph Barton Perry

Philosopher at Harvard University

Brother-in-law of Bernard Berenson

Grandfather of Rachel Perry

http://www.giffordlectures.org/Author.asp?AuthorID=137

Glass and cabinetry designed by Brandt Steele for sons of Hermann Lieber

6

Herman P. Lieber

Son of Hermann Lieber

In 1909 Brandt Steele designed a set of stained glass windows for Herman’s home. Brandt’s design appears on page 20 of Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History, Winter 1994.

Herman P. was also the grandfather of Peter Lieber, aerial photographer (see below)

Robert Lieber and Carl Lieber

Sons of Hermann; patron and friend, respectively, of T.C. Steele’s son, Brandt

Circa 1905, Brandt Steele designed a cabinet for Robert Lieber’s home. The design appears on page 20 of Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History, Winter 1994.

7

Brandt Steele

Brandt Steele (Photo from Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History, Winter 1994)

Son of T.C. Steele and his first wife, Libbie Lakin

Artist and designer

For an informative article about Brandt, see “Work Worth Doing: Brandt Steele, Designer and Potter” by Barry Shifman (Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History, Winter 1994; available from http://shop.indianahistory.org/ 

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=35956249

 

 

8

Herman B Wells

(1902-2000)

11th president of Indiana University

Chancellor of Indiana University

Founded the Indiana University Press

http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?products_id=794746

http://newsinfo.iu.edu/OCM/releases/wellsrem.htm

9

Bernard Perry

Hired by Herman B. Wells as Founding Director of Indiana University Press

Father of Rachel Berenson Perry

http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/pages.php?pID=27&CDpath=13

10

Frederic (Fritz) Lieber

Great-grandson of Richard Lieber

Cousin of Kurt Vonnegut

Friend of James Capshew

http://www.nrhillerdesign.com/press/pdfs/Kitch_Oak_SalvagedGlass.pdf

Peter Lieber stands in front of a painting by T.C. Steele

11

Peter Lieber

Aerial photographer

Cousin of Frederic (Fritz) Lieber

James Capshew stands next to a bust of Wells

12

James Capshew

Professor of History and Philosophy of Science

Friend of Fritz Lieber

Biographer of Herman B Wells, Indiana University’s visionary educator (forthcoming from the Indiana University Press)

http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?products_id=794746

13

Image from alternativereel.com

Kurt Vonnegut

Author and artist

Cousin of Fritz Lieber

Kurt’s parents, Kurt Sr. and Edith, were invited shortly after their wedding to join the Portfolio (often referred to as the Portfolio Club), an arts related organization founded by T.C. Steele.

Forthcoming biography of Vonnegut by Charles J. Shields: http://us.macmillan.com/andsoitgoes

14

Rachel Berenson Perry

Artist and art historian; author of T.C. Steele and the Society of Western Artists:1896-1914, published by the Indiana University Press, of which her father was the Founding Director

Member of the Portfolio (often called the Portfolio Club) in Indianapolis, an organization for artists and writers founded by T.C. Steele.

http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?products_id=84462

What’s it worth?

A Harris Lebus sideboard from DK Antiques, UK


A reader submitted a comment on American Bungalow Magazine’s blog in response to my story about defunct English furniture manufacturer Harris Lebus. She had seen a sideboard similar to one of those pictured in the article and wondered whether it was worth the price being asked.

I am not an appraiser, I responded, and I am always struck by the notion that one can actually say what a piece of antique furniture is worth, considering the basic fact that value is a social construction. Unless you are buying furniture primarily as a financial investment (and let’s be honest–few of us are), antiques are worth whatever you are willing to pay; the art of valuing such objects comes largely through the stories we tell about them (Who made this chair? Where was the maker trained? Was the artist’s grandfather a famous explorer? Perhaps the piece once belonged to a famous family?), and those stories are subject to change, depending on memory, documentary evidence, etc.

The sideboard that inspired my American Bungalow article is a good case in point. When the owner bought it, he was led to believe–by an honest and well intentioned dealer who did not at the time know anything about Harris Lebus–that it might have been made for Liberty. The Liberty connection made the piece seem eminently worth the price he paid, although the same price struck him as excessive once he learned about the piece’s actual provenance.

But here’s the thing. As a professional furniture maker, I ask myself whether anything about the piece changed because of its lack of connection to Liberty, and of course I answer “no.” It’s still a knockout in terms of design. It’s still well made (though not all Lebus pieces were so well constructed). It’s still a truly functional piece. And I think to myself (and am suggesting that you, if you have read this far, also think to yourself), Perhaps we should reassess our notions of value with respect to Lebus artifacts. This goes not only for pieces made by Lebus, but by other makers, too.

When it comes to putting a price on objects of beauty and utility, have confidence in your taste. Professional appraisers in all fields have their place, but their methods tend to be inherently conservative–that is, based on documentable examples of past sales. Every so often someone comes along–it has to be someone wealthy enough to bust the valuation ceiling–and pays far more for a piece than anyone ever thought reasonable. Suddenly we permit ourselves to view that piece, and potentially others by the same maker, as more worthy of our attention and esteem than anyone would have imagined possible. But isn’t there something a little embarrassing in the notion that we need an expert (or a celebrity) to validate our own sense of value? Isn’t this a bit like the emperor who had no clothes?

Obviously if you’re spending someone else’s money, buying primarily for financial investment, or investing on an organization’s behalf, you should engage a professional appraiser. But in ordinary circumstances, the kind most of us face, if you love an object and can afford the price being asked, by all means buy it. Don’t be overly concerned about what it’s worth. Many–and quite possibly most–dealers, like the majority of contemporary artisans, are not attempting to fleece you, but simply to make a living and cover the costs of doing business. If people give you a hard time for supposedly having paid too much for a piece, don’t let them get under your skin. Just tell them that to you, the piece is worth what you paid. By doing so, you will join a movement to rethink the value of artifacts made by those (whether the Harris Lebus Manufacturing Company or your neighbor) who furnish the homes of ordinary people, rather than those of rare wealth.

Harris Lebus and a lovely coincidence

In 1995 I came across a gorgeous book by English author Lorrie Mack, The Art of Home Conversion: Transforming Uncommon Properties into Stylish Homes (Cassell, 1993). It’s a compilation of stories about homes created from structures as diverse as a flour mill, water tower, stables, various types of factories and shops, and several less uncommon yet equally breathtaking churches and barns. The buildings themselves were amazing, but most compelling to me was a piece of furniture—a hallstand shot through a doorway in the entrance to a former fruit and vegetable shop. A vision in aged oak and beaten copper, it married gothic and Golders Green. I hoped I’d have a chance to make one like it someday.

Photo courtesy of Art Furniture, London

In 2002, during a slow patch in the shop, I bought a curly white oak log from a local sawyer and built a version of the hallstand modified for contemporary use. A feature about the piece was published in Fine Woodworking[1]. Eventually I sold the hallstand to a pair of English professors who had the perfect space for it in the entryway of their Tudor Revival home.

A few years later, while visiting an acquaintance who had amassed an enviable collection of Arts and Crafts furnishings and decorative objects, I fell in love with a breathtaking sideboard. Would he mind if I made a reproduction? Business being slow (translation: being effectively broke), I made my version using plain sawn red oak—a lot more affordable than fancy quarter sawn white. (The original had not been made of quarter sawn either, though its old-growth brown oak was far more elegant than my fat-ringed red.) Instead of copper panels I used art glass with copper foil[2], and I had door and drawer pulls fabricated by a local sculptor[3].

The dealer who’d sold the sideboard was under the impression that it had been made for Liberty. The piece itself had no identifiable maker’s mark. But the owner’s curiosity was piqued by my interest, and he made some inquiries that revealed the sideboard had been produced by a company called Harris Lebus.

You can read all about this in the Summer 2010 issue of American Bungalow magazine. But what you won’t find there is the tale of coincidence that follows.

I had never tried to identify the original hallstand’s maker. There wasn’t so much as a hint in Lorrie Mack’s book. After my article appeared in Fine Woodworking, a reader had contacted me to say she owned one of the original hallstands, but she said nothing about who had made it. Now that I thought about it, there were some strong similarities between the hallstand’s architecture and that of the sideboard. I wished I could contact that reader, but her message and email address had been lost in a laptop fatality.

American Bungalow agreed to publish a story about Harris Lebus. My former employer, Roy (“It’s all problems”), a longtime friend, generously offered to pay my airfare and put me up in his home near London so I could do some further research. In the limited time available I visited the Bruce Castle Museum, whose staff were extremely helpful in providing photocopied documents, including an informal history of the Lebus company written by a family member; walked with Lebus researcher Paul Collier around the Ferry Lane Estate, site of Lebus’s Tottenham works; found some excellent leads at the Geffrye Museum in Hackney; and pored through many packets of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century catalogs and other documents at the Westminster Archive. I would later follow up these leads with further research into genealogy and the turn-of-the-century context in which Lebus operated.

Though identifying the hallstand’s maker was not an official goal of the research trip, I was  hoping to satisfy my curiosity. Surely in all these documents I would come across a picture of the hallstand. But I didn’t.

One day, while using a public computer at a visitors’ center in Kingston, I typed in yet another search for “arts and crafts hallstand,” just for the hell of it. This time, unaccountably, I found what I was looking for. The hallstand had indeed been a Lebus product.

It was a thrilling discovery. At that point I had made only five major spec pieces in a cabinetmaking career spanning 28 years. What were the odds that two of those five should turn out to have been based on original pieces made by the same British manufacturer—one whose name I hadn’t even heard of before finding its wares so lovely that I wanted to make my own versions?


[1] http://www.nrhillerdesign.com/press/pdfs/011165072.pdf

[2] www.anneryanmillerglassstudio.com

[3] http://cyclops-studios.com/

Another four-letter word

“Blog.” My new all-purpose four-letter word. Perfect for replacing those other unmentionables. You know—clap, slit, damp, hall, and duck.

But Nancy, you say, reaching a caring hand across the imaginary cyberspace table, Why the animus toward blogging, an innocuous activity if ever there was one? Well, precisely because of the activity’s apparent inconsequentiality. The blogosphere is so clogged with entries (WordPress boasts “200,000,000 Posts…and Counting”) that you have to wonder whether any of those posts are actually being read—other than by their writers. If a blog is posted in the blogosphere and no one reads it, was a blog posted? If everyone is blogging, who the *blog* gives a *blog*?

So what has moved me to join the fray? Three evenings ago I was reading in bed with my significant other—I, consumed by my fourth reading of a lovely book originally published in 1966[1] and he, immersed in a recent issue of Atlantic Monthly (the one dramatically portending “the end of men”).[2] Turning the page, he suddenly remarked, “Oh wow. You’ll want to read this. ‘Our Houses, Our Selves.’”

Want to read it, my *blog*. In fact I spent the night in a blur of insomnia with the term “also ran” flashing endlessly through my consciousness.

The article Mark was reading—a characteristically sharp and entertaining piece by Sandra Tsing Loh—reviews three recently published books, one of which appears to deal with the very topic in which I have invested myself over the past year—home, and particularly its meanings to women of our time.

*Blog!*

My manuscript, ripe fruit of some fifteen years of thinking, research, and writing, sits poised at the brink of delivery to the Indiana University Press, with publication scheduled for the autumn of 2011.

So perhaps what this blogging thing is best for is venting. Now that I have set up my own means of global publishing, I can yell and scream to my heart’s desire, enjoying the illusion that someone, somewhere may understand my frustration. And if no one reads the post, no harm done.

Vent–another four-letter word.


[1] Rachel Peden’s The Land, The People, published originally by Alfred Knopf and republished by Indiana University Press.

[2] The Atlantic Monthly, July/August 2010.