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The Language of Houses

How Buildings Speak to Us

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About the Book

In the 1980’s, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alison Lurie wrote a meditation on clothing as an expression of history, social status and individual psychology. The Language of Clothes (Random House) came to be highly regarded in the literature of couture and design.

Lurie has returned with The Language of Houses, a provocative and entertaining journey through the architecture of houses and buildings and the divided spaces within come to reflect the attitudes and purposes of the organizations and people who inhabit them.

What makes a house is in the eye of the beholder, and the word can mean anything from church to office to domicile and more – and relies on the use of materials such as stone and wood and stucco and the roles of stairs and windows, tight interiors and open expanses.

Structures discussed are: schools, churches, government building, museums, prisons, hospitals, restaurants, and of course, houses and homes.

Filled with literary references and charming hand-drawings, Lurie’s new work will appeal to fans of Bill Bryson’s At Home, as well as provoke wide review attention for this award-winning author.

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Critical Praise

The Language of Houses…. makes a powerful argument that how we choose to order the space we live and work in reveals far more about us.… full of mischievous apercus, and Ms. Lurie at her best is bracingly subversive….a mine of adroit observation, uncovering apparently humdrum details to reveal their unexpected, and occasionally poignant, human meaning.” —Wall Street Journal

“. . . A book meticulously packed with facts, paradoxes and observations. . . . a rich compendium of information, exploring how we inhabit our homes, our offices and our places of learning, leisure and worship, from every conceivable angle, in neatly organized chapters addressing each category of building.” —Seattle Times

“Lurie maintains a light touch with such damning observations. . . One of the book’s best chapters treats public high schools. . . .its insights into our vanity, and capacity for almost negligent public construction, are ripe for the gleaning.” —Boston Globe

“Allusions to the work of Charlotte Brontë, Tom Wolfe, Joyce Carol Oates and Michael Lewis…(Lurie) takes a broad look at the design of museums, residences, schools, prisons and restaurants — to name a few of the featured categories — and how they have evolved over time…“The Language of Houses” is light and breezy.” —Washington Post

The Language of Houses has every quality you would expect from a work by Alison Lurie: intelligence, authority, wit and charm.” —Louis Begley

“Alison Lurie, in her lucid, jargon-free way, allows us to read what architecture is saying. She has culled the best ideas from a vast secondary literature and passed it all through the sieve of her brilliant mind.” —Edmund White

“There's much to absorb in this sequel to Alison Lurie's The Language of Clothes, but The Language of Houses is an extraordinarily absorbing book—it wears its learning lightly, holding this reader's attention the way a fine novel does. I was particularly fascinated by the linked chapters on religious buildings and museums.” —James McConkey

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9781883285661
  • ISBN 10: 1883285666
  • Imprint: Delphinium
  • On Sale: 09/08/2015
  • Pages: 308
  • List Price: 19.99 CAD
  • BISAC1: SOCIAL SCIENCE / General

The Language of Houses by Alison Lurie

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