William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of English and of Visual and Environmental Studies Harvard University
Sex and Real Estate: Why We Love Houses
Sex and Real Estate is a witty, informative, and thought-provoking study of our complex relation to the ideas and actualities of house and home.
With vast erudition likely carried, Marjorie Garber – professor of English and director of the Humanities Center at Harvard University – ranges through literature, art, film, journalism, criticism, and the hard evidence of everyday experience, and gives us an acute analysis of the ways in which we think about the places we hang our hats. She discusses the House as Beloved (“Your house is the other person in your live,” declares an architectural designer.), as Mother (“the house, we would like to think, loves us.”), as Body (“both an ancient figure and a persistent desire”). She writes about the Dream House, the Trophy House (“We could call the purchasers of celebrity homes ‘house-groupies.’”), the House as History, and the Summer House (“When you’re seventeen, you dream of a summer romance. When you’re forty-seven, you dream of a summer home.”).
Each chapter is a superb, individually constructed essay. Taken together, they add up to an enlightening and challenging exploration of one of the most familiar – but also the most emotionally charged – elements of our lives.
Sex and Real Estate
“Drawing on diverse cultural references, Garber reviews the history of houses in society, their architectural styles, the various uses of rooms and furnishings, and the always-booming “nest” magazine industry (today’s “yuppie pornography”). For professional realtors hoping to glimpse into the windows of their clients’ psyches and for any reader who shares Garber’s romantic attachment to houses, this book is sure to be a very hot property, indeed.”
“Anyone who has looked, even casually, at what are called “shelter” magazines, or who has engaged in the exhausting process of buying or selling property, will have been struck by the peculiarly erotic quality of the language used to describe the houses we live in or seek to own. Perhaps prompted by her own foray into real estate, Garber, author of Symptoms of Culture and Dog Love, among many other books, applies her richly stocked scholarly imagination to a consideration of the cultural role of the house ... As a professor of English at Harvard and director of its Humanity Center, Garber is an established academic. While dazzling, her erudition is not intimidating; this book is bound to prompt lively after dinner discussion and perhaps a little abashed self-recognition in the nation’s suburban great rooms and downtown lofts.”
– Library Journal
“An inventive, erudite analysis from a scholar and homeowner.”
– Kirkus Reviews
– Boston Herald
“Illuminating ... Garber upends, tilts and shakes the house of our cultural
“She writes of the home as the beloved, delineating a literary history of ‘house love’.”
– The New Yorker
“Spirited, sardonic ... Garber makes her points with nimble logic, a scholar
suited to tilt against the windmills of philistine taste.”