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If I close my eyes and wish real hard…

There are few things more stressful than apartment hunting on a deadline. This is currently my life and I’m finding it hard to think of much else this week. Despite my determination, my efforts have still come to naught, though I’ve got a little over a week left in which to find the most brilliant new home. Or, you know, the acceptable one that I can afford in my neighborhood.

In moments of fitful insanity, I have taken to throwing all sense of realism out the window and searching for residencies either way out of my price range or in far off lands (like France! And Norway! And Portland!). Did you know that it’s much cheaper to live in almost all places that are not New York? It’s true and it makes me jealous.  In any case, after looking at the heartbreaking pictures of palatial abodes that I won’t be inhabiting any time in the near future and frantically searching for the “cozy” (real estate term for “SMALL”) spaces that I could possibly move into, I started thinking about all of the amazing houses and apartments I’ve read about an wistfully hoped were in some way real.

The Mortmain house/castle in Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle remains one of my favorite idealistic homes. The intricacies are detailed so well and the decrepit castle transformed into a modern (in mid-twentieth century terms) space has such a Romantic feel to it that it’s impossible not to want to live there. The grounds, the turrets, the moat and high ceilings all project such an air of fading elegance, which of course is the point of the story. The part of me that cries at Satine’s death in Moulin Rouge, yet kind of feels like it would be so lovely to die of consumption (the galloping consumption) as perfectly as she does, is the part of me that wants to live in this crumbling house.

Then there’s the professor’s house in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Maybe I have a thing for huge, old twisty houses? Regardless, a good game of hide and seek proves how amazing this house is. And people come just to take tours of it! And the hide and seek combined with the getting out of the way of the tours GETS YOU INTO NARNIA. Sometimes. Even without the whole “portal to another world” part, I’ve always wanted to live in a house with so many passages and rooms that you could get lost in it if you were unfamiliar (oh, now my brain is moving on to Hogwarts, where even Dumbledore doesn’t know all of its secrets, but I’m refraining and trying to stay away from fantasy/magical homes for now).

I will end with the apartment in Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog. The action of this book rarely leaves the confines of 7 Rue de Grenelle and the bourgeois Parisian address is almost too much to read about without calling Air France and demanding a ticket immediately. Much like George Perec’s Life: A User’s Manual, Barbery uses the building itself to precisely detail the lives of its inhabitants. Its history is their history and the legacies are concrete. So much is tied to family and name, but also to the floors and apartment numbers themselves. While I’m sure I’m hardly alone in my longing for a lovely European apartment (apartement?), this time size notwithstanding, it’s much easier to imagine a life as an ex-patriot when someone describes your new ideal home with such emotion and, well, elegance.

It’s long been a saying that a good book will transport you somewhere else entirely, and so I would think that this is something anyone whose ever called themselves a reader, or heck, read a book period, has considered. What spaces have you read about that you’ve wanted to go to so badly you’ve convinced yourself they’re real? It might be that the author describes them so well or that the characters that live in and around are so lively and endearing that they make the home what it is. Whatever the attraction might be, if you could pick up and move to any literary place, where would you settle down?

10 Responses to If I close my eyes and wish real hard…

  1. I Capture the Castle is one of my absolute favorite books, and I totally agree about their house. It would be amazing to have. Good much on apartment hunting!

  2. I haven’t found any literary “places” that I’d like to live, but if I could visit, I’d go to Spider Robinson’s Callahan’s Bar. :-)

  3. Kim says:

    I’ll have to think more about literary abodes, but I had to say thanks for reminding me about the apartments in the “Hedgehog” book. I read it while on vacation in Paris and kept hoping I’d stumble upon it, along with a small sign saying, “Apartment for Rent; heavily discounted rent for visitors from the US.” Sigh.

  4. Gill Avila says:

    H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Shunned House.” Actually, when I spent some time in Providence I found the real place that was the setting for the story so I guess I managed it. (135 Benefit Street. It’s still there.)

  5. Donn says:

    Two things come to mind: first of all is the peachin James and the Giant Peach, and second of all is that bit from War & Peace where Tolstoy describes a young girl wiggling her toes in the slabs in front of the fireplace.

    The Giant Peach is the opposite of Lewis’ house – it’s so perfectly described and complete that it feels very homely. And the Tolstoy description…I don’t know. But can’t you perfectl picture that scene, that feeling?

    Kafka’s story The Burrow is another interesting example of a ‘home’, although that one’s really a lot…odder…in mood.

  6. MS says:

    Thornfield Hall. Before it burned, of course!

  7. Willy Wonker’s Chocolate Factory. Hmmmmmmmmmm

  8. Jerome says:

    The palazzo in Venice where Lord Marchmain lives with his mistress in Brideshead Revisited!

  9. Teri Carter says:

    I’m moving in with Frances Mayes and getting lost in the Italian countryside. Or maybe I’ll snag me an apartment in Paris and sip wine in a nearby cafe with Styron and Capote. Both sound heavenly …

  10. Manderly from Rebecca only without the creepy husband and housekeeper.

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