From Animal House to Our House
A Love Story
By Ron Tanner
(Academy Chicago Publishers, Hardcover, 9780897336246, 288pp.)
Publication Date: February 2012
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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Ten years ago, Ron and his then-girlfriend, Jill, did the impossible. They bought condemned property -- a big Baltimore Victorian brownstone and vowed to bring it back to its original glory. The house had been home to Baltimore's most notorious fraternity for a decade and now, wrecked and abandoned, it was filled with garbage. As if that weren't daunting enough: Ron and Jill had been dating for only six months and they knew nothing about fixing up old houses. Friends, family, and concerned onlookers told them not to do it they would surely lose their shirts and their love in the bargain. But Jill wanted the house and Ron wanted Jill. So Ron bought the house.
Ron Tanner teaches writing at Loyola University in Baltimore and directs the Marshall Islands Story Project (mistories.org). He is the author of two books: Kiss Me, Stranger and Bed of Nails, which won both the G.S. Sharat Chandra Award and the Towson Prize for Literature. He has won many other literary prizes as well, including a Faulkner Society gold medal, a Jack Dyer Fiction Prize, and a Pushcart Prize. Tanner lives in the big Baltimore brownstone featured in this memoir with his wife, Jill, and their many pets. Their website, Houselove.org, is dedicated to the love and care of old houses.
I fell for the house, I fell for the girl (and, predictably, her dowager of a basset hound), but most of all, I fell for Ron Tanner, one very fine storyteller. I'm still a bit stunned that I could become so entranced by a tale involving rehab nerds, real-estate shysters, frat-house vandals, Dumpsters, rats, and a whole lot of tools, but I'm enough of a writer to know this: when someone of great heart meets the most deeply personal challenge of a lifetime -- especially when it seems strange or insane to just about everyone else -- that's the place where the best and most moving stories begin. For Ron Tanner, it began with a woman wrapping glasses in an antique shop . . . and a small sign in a Baltimore window. How little he knew of what was to come, and how glad you'll be that he never backed down.- Julia Glass, author of Three Junes and The Widower's Tale
When I was a few pages into From Animal House to Our House, I wanted to shout, "Go back! Go back!" But Tanner and his girlfriend persisted with their daunting home-renovation project, and ended up with (spoiler alert) a beautiful house, a marriage that survived beyond the last page, and an excellent book. And the man is a talented illustrator as well: he draws a mean perforated PVC drainpipe. This is the perfect read for anyone who has ever wandered the aisles at Home Depot in a blissful daze.- David Owen, staff writer for The New Yorker, author of Green Metropolis
FROM ANIMAL HOUSE TO OUR HOUSE: A LOVE STORY, will sweep you off your feet the way traditional love stories do, but with one difference: you'll also fall in love with the house. In this truly compelling story, love and a nail gun conquer everything.- Jessica Anya Blau, author of Drinking Closer to Home and The Summer of Naked Swim Parties
Ron Tanner’s life is a testament to the power of hard work, a big heart, blind romance, and even outright idiocy. What does he have to show for it? Only a beautiful house, a loving marriage, and now this inspiration of a book. Pass me my hammer!- Chris Jones, writer-at-large for Esquire
In addition to being a love story, a how-to guide, an urban adventure, and even a coming-of-age memoir, From Animal House to Our House is a classic American tale, a portrait of an artist compelled to replace destruction with dignity, to consecrate the past, and to create via hope and sweat a life of beauty and meaning. It’s rare for a book to appeal to poets and plumbers, but Ron Tanner’s experiences are intensely human; this book is for anyone who’s ever been seduced by a dream and yearned for the deepest sort of restoration.- Lia Purpura, author of On Looking and Rough Likeness
I might seem the worst possible person to comment on Ron Tanner's memoir as I am totally uninterested in old houses and home renovation. Actually, this makes me the perfect person. Can you imagine how good a book it would have to be for me to like it? For me, the introspection, the humor, the incredible wisdom about bugs, the love story and the charming illustrations had to carry the book. They certainly do. Tanner is a master of small, sharp, hilarious insights, such as "There was no middle ground for mom. Either our lives were pitiful or miraculous." I love that.- Marion Winik, author of Glen Rock Book of the Dead