Some books are read simply for pleasure.  Let’s call them Baby Bear books.  Some books are read primarily for education or information.  These would be Papa Bear books.  But some books are a pleasure to read while they instruct.  Home is a perfectly just-right Mama Bear book. 

I had great expectations for this book, recommended as it was by George Grant.  The first chapter was disappointing, focusing on Ralph Lauren, nostalgia and invented tradition.  Beyond chapter one, however, the book was an absorbing and satisfying read.

Home is a culture history of comfort. 

The idea of comfort has developed historically.  It is an idea that has meant different things at different times.  In the seventeenth century, comfort meant privacy, which led to intimacy and, in turn, to domesticity.  The eighteenth century shifted the emphasis to leisure and ease, the nineteenth to mechanically aided comforts – light, heat, and ventilation.  The twentieth-century domestic engineers stressed efficiency and convenience.  p. 231

As a confirmed word-bird, I particularly enjoyed all the little etymological notes, some of which I cannot resist sharing with you:

~ comfort originally meant to strengthen or console » comforter meant someone who aided or abetted a crime » ample, but not luxurious » physical well-being and enjoyment, a word used often in Jane Austen’s novels

Take a word like “weekend,” which originated at the end of the nineteenth century.  Unlike the medieval “weekday” that distinguished the days that one worked from the Lord’s Day, the profane “weekend” – which originally described the period when shops and businesses were closed – came to reflect a way of life organized around the active pursuit of leisure. p.21

~ Saturday (Lørdag)  only day of week in Scandinavian countries not named after deity; “a day for bathing”

Differences in posture, like differences in eating utensils (knife and fork, chopsticks or fingers, for example), divide the world as profoundly as political boundaries.  Regarding posture there are two camps: the sitters-up (the so-called western world) and the squatters (everyone else). p.78

If you have someone in your life interested in architecture, interior design, or just in a comfortable home, this would make a wonderful gift. 

More quotes from Home from previous blog entries: Interior Space and Privacy.


8 thoughts on “Home

  1. I think so.  I told my Latin teacher (of Czech origin) about this book and asked him on the phone, after spelling it out, how to pronounce the name.  Only one problem: I can’t remember the answer.

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