Dream Houses

Last night was another installment in my misadventures as a halfhearted insomniac, and I decided to roll around in bed with a book—Simon Mawer’s The Glass Room. Perhaps the book can shoulder part of the blame? Because it is a beautiful book, and I’m setting that statement in the digital stone that is this blog, because if, for some crazy reason I change my mind, I want to remember the euphoria of having loved a book like this.

It’s a novel of, yes, love—and of marriages, of family, of secrets and of betrayals, of privilege, and of the different strains of tragedy; of the desire to shed the burdening ornamentation of the old world, of wanting to look to the future. It’s about art and architecture, it’s about a house that honeymooners Viktor and Liesel Landauer build with one Rainer von Abt, a house sterile and angled and of clarity and glass, glass, glass. It’s a new life for the Landauers, and this is the new life that they want to have.

. . . Viktor and Liesel watched their future world growing around them and they thought it was a kind of perfection, the finest instrument for living.

I won’t say any more about The Glass House, not yet. That will be for later, when I’ve shaken off the mists it hung in my head. Know, however, that on Nash’s prodding, I picked up once more Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space. The book has been in my shelf for months—originally a gift to P., but I took it back. Hah. Nash had her copy of the book when we last met, and she saw me reading Mawer, and she brought this to my attention:

Sometimes the house of the future is better built, lighter and larger than all the houses of the past, so that the image of the dream house is opposed to that of the childhood home. Late in life, with indomitable courage, we continue to say that we are going to do what we have not yet done: we are going to build a house. This dream house may be merely a dream of ownership, the embodiment of everything that is considered convenient, comfortable, healthy, sound, desirable, by other people. It must therefore satisfy both pride and reason, two irreconcilable terms . . . Maybe it is a good thing for us to keep a few dreams of a house that we shall live in later, always later, so much later, in fact, that we shall not have time to achieve it. For a house that was final, one that stood in symmetrical relation to the house we were born in, would lead to thoughts—serious, sad thoughts—and not to dreams. It is better to live in a state of impermanence that in one of finality.

I need to think. I need to keep on reading.

6 thoughts on “Dream Houses

  1. I read all of the Bachelard in the library a while ago – enjoyed it, but think I would like it more if I read it again without an academic mindset on. More fun as a dreamy, image-y musing on houses than as a repository from which I’m trying to find quotations for an essay!

    1. Hi, Simon. That’s exactly what my friend suggested–hence, me having actually read parts of Bachelard, haha. Discovering its intersections with the Mawer book was very rewarding, and now that I’ve finished with the novel, I go back to the Bachelard in snippets, opening a page at random. Just thinking about rooms and houses and space.


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