Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Meghan Daum

Meghan Daum is the author of the essay collection My Misspent Youth and the novel The Quality of Life Report, a New York Times Notable Book. Her column on political, cultural, and social affairs appears weekly in the Los Angeles Times.

From a Q & A about her new book, Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House:

Q: In LIFE WOULD BE PERFECT IF I LIVED IN THAT HOUSE, you detail your lifelong obsession with real estate and your quest for a place to call home. What does “home” mean to you? How has that meaning evolved over the years?

A: Asking what “home” means is like asking what “love” means. And, as I say in the book I have a pet peeve about people referring to houses as homes, especially if they’re talking in terms of real estate or about properties as physical, purchasable entities. “I just bought a new home,” someone will say. Really? What does that mean? You bought a feeling, a mélange of smells, a history? No, you bought a house! In my mind, you buy a house but you make a home.

So I guess for me the best way to talk about “home” is to talk about the elements of your surroundings that you make—your friends, your choices, your plans, and, yes, decisions about cities and neighborhoods and floors and furniture and window treatments. In terms of how this has evolved for me over the years, I think it correlated pretty closely with my sense of myself as an adult versus a non-adult. Like most children (most lucky children anyway) my earliest definition of home was, of course, the place where my parents were and my room was and where I ate dinner most nights. Later, when I left for college, I entered a pretty aimless period where I was obsessed with "having my own place” but wasn’t quite at a stage where that could happen in any kind of authentic way (a fancy way of saying I moved dorm rooms constantly and eventually rigged things up so I was basically living in New York City and going to college (in upstate New York) at the same time; I thought I was super cool and artsy and “having it all.” In fact, I was a bit of a caricature of the brooding co-ed with bohemian ambitions and suburban roots, plus I was squandering my education, but that’s another matter. In my 20s, I genuinely did live full-time in New York City, where, like many people, I soaked up the various ecstasies and discontents of the place so fully that it almost becomes part of your blood type. In my 30s, I’m embarrassed to say, I was extremely attached to certain pieces of antique furniture that I dragged from place to place and to certain interior decorating concepts that I tried to implement wherever I went. But I did live in some fantastic, beautiful places in my 30s. I lived on the Nebraska prairie and in the Santa Monica Mountains. I lived near the beach, near the Hollywood sign, and near a truck stop. And several beaux-arts lamps came with me every step of the way—not to mention my 85-pound sheepdog.

Over a six-month period from late last year to early this year, I got married, lost my mother, turned 40, and decided to...[read on]
Among the early praise for the book:
"Daum is, undoubtedly, one of the most interesting thinkers—and cultural critics—of our generation, if not the most interesting, and certainly one of the most elegant, sharp writers of prose around."
--Joanna Smith Rakoff
Visit Meghan Daum's official website.

--Marshal Zeringue