This book, a mere 146 pages of text, is jam-​​packed with won­der­fully offbeat infor­mation about a variety of American writers and their homes, now des­ig­nated museums. Trubeck’s purpose in writing the book was to “expose not simply Whitman’s house, but all of the writers’ house museums as the frauds I believed them to be.” What she found as she traveled and visited many sites was a little more complicated.

The author points out that vis­iting the house of a favorite or famous author should not sur­prise us: “Writers’ house museums have been on the itin­er­aries of the European Grand Tour since the six­teenth century.” The rela­tionship between reader and favorite writer is strong. Vis­iting the house to see the writer’s chair, quill, pen, type­writer and, soon, PC or laptop is a kind of posthumous lit­erary voyeurism.

The Alcott house, home to the March family of Little Women, has come to epit­omize the America family in ways that would have appalled the strongly fem­inist Louisa May. And it’s not the only leg­endary writer’s living quarters whose public image differs from the reality of the writer’s life within its walls. Whose house becomes a museum? Do they gen­erate income? When did all this begin? In the end, Trubek debunks lit­erary myths, but comes to terms with the devo­tional sojourns of readers for whom reading the book is not enough. Trubeck’s intended exposé enter­tains, enlightens and enchants.

The Skeptic’s Guide is a natural for any book club in the greater Bay Area. There are numerous authors’ houses for us to visit. Jack London’s Glen Ellen property would make a spec­tacular day trip for an adven­turous club or a quick trip by BART to Jack London Square in Oakland, where you could peek into one of London’s favorite watering holes. Joaquin Miller‘s bun­galow in Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland is also nearby and there is the Steinbeck country of Salinas. How could a club go wrong with a visit to the John Muir home in Mar­tinez? Danville has O’Neill’s Tao House; if poetry is your thing, and you’re headed down to Steinbeck country, go a bit farther and visit Robinson Jeffers’ Tor House in Carmel. Lit­erary bus tours are available for the mystery loving book clubs and I’m sure a Google search could produce a few others. Check out the Beat poets’ environs of San Fran­cisco. For those of you who can’t get to Mark Twain’s East Coast home, you can head up to Vir­ginia City and rest your foot on a few bar rails familiar to Twain in his jour­nalism days.

At the end of her book, Trubek has included a list of writers’ homes open The Skeptic’s Guide to Writers’ Houses is a bit of a travel book, museum rants and raves and just gen­erally a lot of fun.

Archives

Looking to buy a book?

We support inde­pendent book­stores to buy books. When shopping online, please use our affiliate links and think of us as your inde­pendent book seller and unbiased book reviewer.