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Words and Worlds

From Autobiography to Zippers

Alison Lurie


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Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (5/19/2020)


This engaging new collection of essays from the New York Times–bestselling novelist gathers together her reflections on the writing life; fond recollections of inspiring friends; and perceptive, playful commentary on preoccupations ranging from children’s literature to fashion and feminism.

Citing her husband’s comment to her that “Nobody asked you to write a novel,” Lurie goes on to eloquently explain why there was never another choice for her. She looks back on attending Radcliffe in the 1940s—an era of wartime rations and a wall of sexism where it was understood that Harvard was only for the men.

From offering a gleeful glimpse into Jonathan Miller’s production of Hamlet to memorializing mentors and intimate friends such as poet James Merrill, illustrator Edward Gorey, and New York Review of Books coeditor Barbara Epstein, Lurie celebrates the creative artists who encouraged and inspired her.

A lifelong devotee of children’s literature, she suggests saying no to Narnia, revisits the phenomenon of Harry Potter, and tells the truth about the ultimate good bad boy, Pinocchio.

Returning to a favorite subject, fashion, Lurie explores the symbolic meaning of aprons, enthuses on how the zipper made dressing and undressing faster—and sexier—and tells how, feeling abandoned by Vogue at age sixty, she finally found herself freed from fashion’s restrictions on women.

Always spirited no matter the subject, Lurie ultimately conveys a joie de vivre that comes from a lifetime of never abandoning her “childish impulse to play with words, to reimagine the world.”

Praise For Words and Worlds: From Autobiography to Zippers

Praise for 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…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

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, author of Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris

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, author of Court of Memory

“Stimulating... entertaining... fascinating.... Lovers of literature and the arts will find this a delightful and rewarding volume.”

Publishers Weekly

“Engaging... captivating... an appealing miscellany.”
Kirkus Reviews

Delphinium, 9781883285784, 225pp.

Publication Date: May 14, 2019

About the Author

Alison Lurie, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel, Foreign Affairs, has published ten books of fiction, four works of non-fiction, and three collections of tales for children. She is a professor emerita of English at Cornell University, and lives in upstate New York with her husband, the writer Edward Hower.