Your Fantasy House
Where reader types would own a vacation home if it could be anywhere in literature
For lease: 2 BR cottage inside heritage oak, western edge of Hundred Acre Wood; running water (courtesy of adjacent stream); stunning view of the six pine trees and Pooh Corner; easy walk to Owl's House and Rabbit's, and mere hop, skip, and jump to Piglet's and where the Woozle wasn't.
Having lived two-thirds of my life in Austin, my roots in the city and love for it run deep. I can't imagine leaving here – well, permanently, anyway. However, on those days when the stress of life in the ATX amps up – whether from creeping along I-35, broiling under August's sun, or opening the latest property tax bill – I'll entertain thoughts of residing somewhere else for part of the year. But when I do, I don't restrict myself to real real estate; being a lifelong reader, I sometimes imagine imaginary locales for my second abode. Lately, I like the idea of a vacation house in the vicinity of A.A. Milne's bear of very little brain. His home and environs may be the first neighborhood beyond my own that I came to know, and I loved that it came with a map – which, as a kid, I pored over and fantasized about walking through. My affection for this place was so strong that when Loggins and Messina released their sentimental pop song "House at Pooh Corner" in 1971, I experienced the kind of overwhelming nostalgia for my childhood that only a 13-year-old can. It's still there, but 35 years later, what makes me dream of a house among Milne's gentle animals is the pastoral setting, the simple lifestyle, the abundance of celebrations (and hunny!), and, mostly, the companionship. The wood's residents are sweet and generous, and the ways in which they are kind to and do good for one another are the essence of what makes you feel "at home."
This notion prompted us to ask some fellow readers: If you could have a second home in any imaginary realm in literature, where would it be? Here are their answers.
Amy GentryAuthor of the novel Good as Gone (coming July 26 from Houghton Mifflin) and former style maven for the Chronicle, via her column "The Good Eye"
For my fantasy second home, I'd build a tree house in the Wood Between the Worlds from The Magician's Nephew. I know what you're thinking: Why not Narnia itself? Narnia's early years, when you could plant a handful of toffees and get a toffee tree, do sound pretty idyllic. But Narnia's later history is one of overt racism, not to mention centuries of wintry conquest by the White Witch. And even in the best of times, Aslan runs way too tight a ship to make a Narnian vacation much fun, unless you're really into grappling with your conscience and making sacrifices for the greater good.
By contrast, the Wood Between the Worlds is made for relaxation. Lulled by greenish light and trees so intensely alive that you can almost hear them growing, visitors to the Wood instantly fall into a blissed-out, semi-amnesiac stupor. It's something like Portland, Ore., without the drizzle. Digory calls it "as rich as plum cake." Best of all, its beautiful natural pools offer access to dozens of unexplored dimensions we never see in the Narnia books – catnip to a novelist.
Julie WernersbachLiterary director, Texas Book Festival
Oz is the place I went more than any other as a child, so that's where I'd like to go. We had several editions of L. Frank Baum's stories at home, from illustrated picture books to the chapter books to, of course, the Hollywood film. The idea that, at any moment, a strong wind could come along, scoop me up, and drop me on a yellow brick road bound for friendship and adventure in a foreign land thrilled me. Now let's get specific: If I'm going to live in Oz, it's going to have to be in Munchkin Country (even though I am six feet tall). I want that sense of community. And I'm not high-fashion enough for the Emerald City.
Jessi CapeChronicle Arts writer
Deciding on just one alternate universe locale for a second home brought to mind so many marvelous realms, but most seem unfit for vacation destinations: Westeros and Camelot are too muddy and brutal; Gulliver's and Alice's worlds are basically never-ending acid trips; Narnia and Neverland have way too many kids. I think I'd enjoy a farmhouse overlooking the sea, in the country of Florin, the setting for The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman. Despite hellish beasts and a conniving aristocracy, there are rolling hills and bright blue (eel-infested) waters, rock climbing or diving on the Cliffs (of Insanity), and magical forest beings, healers, and gentle giants in a European climate. It's the best backdrop for romantic R&R, hilarity, and life-altering adventure.
Asaf RonenEducation director, the Institution Theater
I've decided. If I'm ever going to step out of Austin, it will be to cross the Bifröst bridge into Asgard. Everyone is a god, every day is a bacchanalian event filled with wine and amazing foods and ribald tales. You might get called up to go fight some Frost Giants from time to time, but if that comes with godlike powers, sign me up! I'll be Ronen, God of Movie Marathons and Pastry Treats, just for a month, while business is slow at the theatre. Then when September rolls around, I'll give Heimdall a high five as I make my way back, a couple of ribald tales of my own under my belt.
Adrienne MartiniAuthor of the memoirs Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously and Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood, and a former Chronicle Arts writer
My second home would be on Secundus, the planet where Robert A. Heinlein's Lazarus Long lives. Heinlein's later books – like To Sail Beyond the Sunset and The Number of the Beast – have been critically reviled but are the ones I love the best. I want to go on adventures through time and space with Long, "Deety" Burroughs Carter, Mama Maureen. I suspect that's where the Grand Master himself is, too. I can only imagine how many books he's written while away.
Matthew HinsleyExecutive director, Austin Classical Guitar Society, and author of the new fantasy novel Tinder & Flint
My second home is on Diagon Alley in the flat right above Flourish and Blotts. I'm a regular at the Leaky Cauldron, with a winged flat-mate from Eeylops Owl Emporium, and the occasional brief sojourn into Knockturn Alley – I'd be careful! It doesn't hurt, of course, that London and the Hogwarts Express is just a hop, skip, and a magical wall away.
Rosalind FairesChronicle Arts writer
Extensive beachfront property, lush flora and friendly fauna, and not a trace of the patriarchy in sight – y'all, I'm buying my second home in Wonder Woman's birthplace, Paradise Island, aka Themyscira. There have been many, many tweaks made to the oceanic safe haven in the hands of different comic book writers, but I'll take the original; visit to find me rocking the mandatory jewelry (silver bracelets, natch), hanging out with a pantheon of Greek goddesses, and riding a giant kangaroo to work.