places called home

In Paul Auster’s latest, Winter Journal, written in the second person, he lists his 21 permanent addresses–or, acknowledging the inadequacy of the adjective, his stopping places.

Enclosures, habitations, the small rooms and large rooms that have sheltered your body from the open air. Beginning with your birth at Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey (February 3, 1947) and traveling onward to the present (this cold January morning in 2011), these are the places where you have parked your body over the years–the places, for better or worse, that you have called home.

21 numbered entries that take up 52 pages and that include:

  • the specific address
  • a description of the place
  • the ages he lived there
  • a memory or memories

Here’s one of the shortest ones:

3. 253 Irving Avenue; South Orange, New Jersey. A two-story white clapboard house built in the 1920’s, with a yellow front door, a gravel driveway, and a large backyard. Age 5-12. The site of nearly all your childhood memories. You began living there so long ago, the milk was delivered by horse-drawn wagon for the first year of two after you moved in.

I just made a quick count. 12 on my list. And I’m looking forward to plumping up these addresses with details.

How many stopping places on your list?

12 thoughts on “places called home

  1. I definitely will. I’ve really enjoyed finding blogs via the keyword search function– writers with whom I share interests, but otherwise might not have come across, like you, writing about space and memory and other things I find endlessly intriguing. Yay WordPress, eh?


    • I was born in Rapid City, SD. Easy. For #2 I first wrote down Decatur, GA and then changed it to Avondale. When I checked with my mother last week, it turns out #2 was Decatur and #3 was Avondale! The fact checking on this exercise is a lot of fun.


  2. A quick mental count: 12, I think. (Why am I not surprised that we came up w/ the same number?) And so a writing exercise is born! Maybe I’ll use this to inspire some of my daily shorties. Love the idea of this book, so adding another to the list because of you, Cynthia. If I just hang out on this blog maybe I’ll actually do all the reading I always mean to do….


  3. I like how the first commenter put it, “evocative in its simplicity.” Like Darrelyn, we moved a ton when I was a kid and then I kept it up in my 20s. So tracking is difficult. But for me, it’s interesting how very short stopping places: Durham, New Hampshire, and Columbia, Missouri, hold such passionate, psychological, person-shaping weight. 🙂


    • Yes, it is interesting. Your comment makes me think about my summers at Ecole Champlain, in Quebec, and in France. Auster allots about two pages to his travels (if I remember correctly), focusing on the repeated ones. And travels sometimes have more to do with hopes and dreams…


    • Thanks for your comment, Michelle. You might also enjoy reading Pam Houston’s story “How to Talk to a Hunter” in her collection Cowboys Are My Weakness. It’s also written in second person. (And a great story!)


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