Friday, August 3, 2007

Out of This World

Decluttering my workspace and reading about the Collyer brothers led me to a 1953 book by Helen Worden Erskine, Out of This World (thanks, library). Erskine was a New York reporter who seems to have started working in the mid-1920s. She developed a niche as a chronicler of the lives of urban recluses and in 1938 "discovered" the Collyer brothers. The lives collected in Out of This World are those of men and women whose wealth enabled them to live on their own odd terms, in brownstones, mansions, and hotels; in dust, clutter, and unopened mail. Here's one passage, from the story of Gertrude Tredwell (1840-1933):

Mr. Van Nostrand walked over to a framed floral arrangement. "This is seaweed. Aunt Gertrude used to have it sent in from the Jersey coast, then she arranged it in the form of flowers and pasted it on heavy drawing paper."

"You'll find them all over the house," commented Mrs. Lonnberg.

"Making flowers out of seaweed was Aunt Gertrude's life," said Mr. Van Nostrand.

Related post
Decluttering: a book recommendation

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