Duck Duck Book


13 – home comforts
02.17.2005, 12:03 am
Filed under: technology

Home comforts : the art and science of keeping house / Cheryl Mendelson ; illustrations by Harry Bates.
New York : Scribner, c1999.
[MCL call number: 640 M537h 1999; 13 copies, one hold]

Here is the bible-type book that will answer your every house-keeping information need. Mendelson grew up in a farming community, where she was raised to be a rural wife, mother, and homemaker. Instead she moved to the city and became a lawyer; but, as she explains in her introduction, the biggest secret of her early adult life was that she also kept house, and enjoyed it. Home Comforts is the nearly 900 page result of years of research and writing on the hows, whys, and wherefores of the home arts. It covers everything from dust mites to appliance warranties to silver polishing.

There are many great house-keeping manuals, but the best of them are so old as to be useless for many a modern household quandary. Mendelson explains that when she was frustrated by the vagueness of garment care labels (what’s the difference between “dry clean” and “dry clean only”?), she looked up the federal regulations that restrict what they can say. And then she thought, wow, you shouldn’t have to be a lawyer to understand the care label in a shirt. So she wrote this book.

The arrangement of the text is easily understandable — there are seven major chapters, Food, Cloth, Cleanliness, Daily Life (including caring for objects such as photographs, books, etc.), Sleep (everything about the bed and the bedroom), Safe Shelter (safety), and Formalities (legal stuff, including contracts, understanding documents, and more). Each chapter covers an array of general topics, which are further divided into specific topics. So, for example, the Cleanliness chapter has a section on Bathrooms, which is divided into various topics, including “cleaning and disinfecting in the bathroom,” “porcelain enamel tubs and sinks,” “nonslip treads in tubs,” and so on.

There are helpful illustrations throughout; and as one might expect from an author who is also a lawyer, Mendelson provides detailed source citations and explanations of where one might turn for further information, in the end notes and in her detailed annotated bibliography (which is labeled “Acknowledgments and Sources”). The bibliography is followed by a list of helpful agencies and organizations, and the book ends with an excellent index.

[thanks, Carl]

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