She can really write, I'll give her that.
20 August 2010
I did not like Meghan Daum's Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House as much as I liked her essay collection My Misspent Youth (remember? "Carpet is Mungers.").
This is not to say that I didn't like it. I did read the whole thing, and enjoyed parts of it immensely. I think Daum really knows her way around nonfiction prose. The whole book is nothing but a dissertation on Daum's fascination with her own living arrangements: her childhood home, her desire to live in New York City (a certain kind of apartment/place in NYC, mind you), her move to Nebraska, her living situations there, and her eventual search (at the height of the real estate boom) for the perfect house in Los Angeles.
Her descriptive powers are at their height when she describes the house she ended up buying in L.A. (for $450,000), especially when she discusses its "fixer-upper" qualities:
"And then there was the garage. I realize that this is the kind of statement that makes people think women are not equipped to own property other than full-service condos, but I'll just come out and say it: I didn't really look at the garage right away because I was afraid to. But let's understand something: many a grown man was also afraid of this structure (a weirdly endearing macho man who I know owns a gun refused to even approach it; another man told me he wouldn't go near it without a life insurance policy). What wusses, I thought, though undoubtedly they just thought I was a moron and a sucker...The property had been sold in as-is condition, not least of all because the garage, which was presumably built in 1928 or shortly thereafter, had been completely caved in for decades. Somewhere along the line, the slabs of broken concrete from the roof had even bisected a Volkswagen bus parked inside." (pp. 175-176.)
Interestingly, the parts of the book set in L.A. were my favorites (which surprised me, as I am not an L.A. fan). But mainly what wowed me about this book was hearing how Daum got by on a writer's salary and without health insurance until at least her mid-thirties (at least that's the way it sounded). I salute her. But I also don't think that's what I was supposed to take away from her book.