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Posts Tagged ‘Judy Corbett’

Brick and Mortar

October 27, 2015 | by

Gwydir Castle. Photo: Patrick Gruban


The British call it Brick Lit: that genre of travel literature in which a sophisticatedly jaded man, woman, or couple falls in love with a crumbling farmhouse in some exotic, rural locale and in the comic struggle to restore said farmhouse, and via encounters with the native populace, gleans profound lessons about life, love, and local color. —Jonathan Miles, Garden and Gun

By any standard, Judy Corbett’s 2005 memoir, Castles in the Air, falls under the Brick Lit rubric. And its subtitle—“The Restoration Adventures of Two Young Optimists and a Crumbling Old Mansion”—may not inspire confidence in its novelty. And yet, I recommend it without reservation.

I came across the book in a British catalog when I was an editorial assistant and put in an order for this title and several others. I’ve never cared much about renovation stories—This Old House always left me cross-eyed with boredom—but it looked fun. It was, but it was much more than that. Read More »

Whistle While You Work

May 19, 2014 | by


William Paxton, The Figurine, 1921

“Many people tolerate squalor,” a friend once said to me. “But you’re the only person I know who seems to have a positive preference for it.”

Evidence to the contrary, I don’t, in fact, enjoy filth and chaos. But I do have a high threshold for it. I seem to lack a certain fastidiousness gene, and I’m guilty of what the British call, terrifically, “sluttish housekeeping.” I am not someone who will ever derive pleasure or satisfaction from cleaning—like running, it is a taste I doubt I will ever acquire. There is always a heap of clothing in my bedroom, generally schmutz on my mirrors, and invariably a mysterious profusion of change on the floor, everywhere. These are the sorts of things suitors think are cute and quirky, and that actual boyfriends come to understand are in fact heavy crosses to be borne.

In spite of—or perhaps because of—my own messiness, I enjoy depictions of cleaning to an unusual degree. Specifically, I love any montage in which order is imposed on chaos. Desirable elements include energetic sweeping, fresh coats of paint, clouds of dust, windows being thrown open. Is this because I somehow crave order, or just that Snow White was the second film I ever saw on the big screen? (War Games was the first.) I don’t know, but either way, I love to watch them while lounging in my unmade bed, generally surrounded by crumbs. Read More »