The Burning House: Grab and go
I had a review copy of Foster Huntington's The Burning House sitting on my to-read shelves for at least a couple of years.
It got wedged behind some beast of an art book that itself hadn't made it out of the shrink wrap, and that only got moved because, after a year of marriage, Dirk and I finally moved in together.
…Okay, we lived together, obviously; we'd functionally been living together since three months into our relationship, and his utter failure to arouse strangly feelings after 36-48 hours in the same one-bedroom is one of the reasons I knew he was the guy. But he still had his place, four blocks away, across the street from the most hideous Christmas window in the entire borough, and now and then we liked to go there and sleep as long as we wanted without a feline spotting the first rosy finger of dawn and meowing inconsolably until "someone" (…Sarah) got up to feed and adore it.
Finally, though, we admitted to ourselves that we never used it, Dirk notified the landlord, and we started doing the mingling of possessions, and I have to tell you, it's not the worst idea to get married first and then do this, because it's harder to throw up your hands all "fuck this, I can't" when the left hand has the ring on it and whatnot. I had a surprisingly hard time with it; trying to get rid of my stuff to make room for Dirk's stuff brought up…all this stuff that had nothing to do with the particular items and everything to do with boundaries and control.
Anyway, in the course of weeding all the bookshelves and finally getting rid of all the college classics I for some reason needed to remember I'd survived, as if anyone's ever going to come over and check to make sure I read and margin-noted Gogol, I pulled down The Burning House and put it in the "go" pile, but it was at the top, and I ended up leafing through it…and then I couldn't put it down, because at the same time that I was struggling to make room for this person who is my favorite, and for all the things he loves, and having to think about why I get attached to things and why it's scary to give them up, here's this book that's all about what people would grab on their way out the door, and it was fascinating to me. I mean, not all of it, because the idea is that people photograph what they'd take with them, so you get a lot of photographers as contributors and sometimes it's samey with all the Nikons and French bulldogs named Ansel, blah dee blah.
But sometimes the samey-ness is quite wonderful. You have a lot of pictures of the pets, and a lot of the pets have hilarious names or are sleeping on top of the other stuff in the portrait. You have a lot of random rocks and tangled necklaces and a lot of pairs of old shoes. You have a lot of people who would take a lot of stuff, unrealistic amounts and unwieldy shapes, old typewriters that weigh a ton, framed posters. And what really got me, just as I was thinking, "How could these people carry it all? I'm throwing the cats in a tote bag and running for my damn life," was page 46. Sandra would take her bird, Horus, and her computer…and possibly not even that, thanks to cloud storage. Sandra actually did suffer through a house burning down back in the '70s. "Word to all the folks with big piles of stuff: you have way less time than you think," she says, and I looked around at the books and the boots and the whatnots in their legions of piles, Yes, Maybe But Probably, Probably Not But Let's Think It Over, No With An Asterisk, No Until Dirk Turns His Back Then Hide It In MBP, and I was like, that's exactly right. Here's what I need: my creatures. Dirk, cats, all other Buntings in domicile. They make the home. They can't be replaced. If I can't grab my grandma's watch, it doesn't mean we don't still love each other.
The book is legit thought-provoking, I'd say, though I read it at a coincidentally meaningful time; you can also read and submit to the blog. Have you read it? And what would YOU take?
Tags: Dirk Birthworthy feline fun times Foster Huntington Nikolai Gogol Pearl The Burning House the fam