Books

On Moving by Louise DeSalvo

Julia Keller
Chicago Tribune (MCT)

Movers and shakers: this book explores how changing your address changes your life.


On Moving

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Subtitle: A Writer's Meditation on New Homes, Old Haunts, and Finding Home Again
Author: Louise DeSalvo
Price: $22.00
Length: 240
Formats: Hardcover
ISBN: 781582345819
US publication date: 2009-03
Amazon

Scholars have a slogan: Three moves equal one fire. They mean that the amount of material -- books, papers, belongings of all sorts -- lost in moving from one home to another is so inevitable and immense that with each trio of jumps, one sheds forever the equivalent mass of what one might be forced to abandon in a tragic conflagration. That's how perilous and unsettling a move can be.

But move we do. The average American moves almost a dozen times in her or his lifetime, Louise DeSalvo reminds us in her new book, On Moving: A Writer's Meditation on New Homes, Old Haunts, and Finding Home Again. Every year, one in four of us changes address. It's a wonder the highways aren't crumbling beneath the weight of all those overloaded moving vans.

Sometimes the moves are involuntary, as has been the case with appalling frequency during the home mortgage crisis that continues to threaten far too many American families. Sometimes the moves are voluntary, prompted by a new job, a new relationship, a chance at a fresh start. Either way, though, moving is momentous.

This familiar ritual is the springboard for DeSalvo's extended essay, which is a fine example of the hybrid genre that blends memoir, reportage, self-help tips and either literary criticism or political analysis.

With this form of writing, you get your recommended daily allowance of facts and figures, but the dish is flavored with personal reminiscence. And the whole thing is geared not toward some amorphous, feel-good "sharing", but the attempt to make a serious cultural point. DeSalvo does a fine job as long as she sticks with literary criticism. Her catalog of well-known authors -- Virginia Woolf, Stephen King, Percy Shelley -- and how they felt about moving is valuable, enlivened as it is by relevant quotations from their work.

It shouldn't be a surprise that DeSalvo knows her way around Woolf's world; DeSalvo's excellent 1989 book, Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work was among the first to give proper weight to the grotesque and prolonged sexual abuse Woolf suffered at the hands of her uncles.

The rest of On Moving, however, is pleasant but undistinguished. DeSalvo's book was prompted, she tells us, by her own recent move after more than three decades in the same house, and while the change was challenging, she fails to come up with any special insights about moving.

Too often, she sounds a bit like a warmed-over Dr. Phil, offering platitudes about home selection: "To know what to search for, we need to learn what we need in a home and also what truly gives us pleasure rather than imagine what we think will give us pleasure." Really?

Yet, just when one is becoming frustrated with DeSalvo's rather pedestrian advice, she comes up with something marvelous. "I learned," she writes, "that asking a family member to relate their moving history unleashes a stream of remembrances."

What a beautiful suggestion: telling the story of a life through the homes in which one has lived. Maybe On Moving will inspire people to ask parents and grandparents about where they lived, and for how long, and what those places meant to them. Such stories are bound to be -- in an entirely different sense of the word -- moving.

6

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.