cover image The Memory Palace: A Book of Lost Interiors

The Memory Palace: A Book of Lost Interiors

Edward Hollis. Counterpoint (PGW, dist.), $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-61902-248-5

Architect Hollis (The Secret Lives of Buildings) dazzles and dizzies the reader in this cultural history of interiors and how the spaces we inhabit, decorate, and fill come to represent our sense of the world and the order we make of it. Here, rooms are not merely rooms, objects are not merely objects: they are the stories of our histories and hopes, embodying our traditions and values. “Interiors do not just remind us who we are, where we’re from, or how to behave. They remind us to remember,” Hollis writes. Along the way, there are stops in the palaces of ancient Rome, the curiosity room of Rudolf II, Marie Antoinette’s boudoir, Victorian England’s Crystal Palace, and the film sets of Gone with the Wind, as Hollis recreates these lost or transformed spaces. Hollis effectively uses his grandmother’s sitting room as a framing device; each chapter leads off with a vignette about her very full, orchestrated space. Like the interiors he’s celebrating, Hollis’s book is a meeting place of ideas, history, objects, and personal interpretation. His stories are told in an impressionistic style that can become precious and unfocused at times. This distinct approach, however, suits the subject, and when the threads come together, the results are deeply satisfying. Agent: Patrick Walsh, Conville & Walsh. (Mar.)