Linking sex to real estate is like using pretty girls to sell cars it may be hitting below the belt, but it works.

It's easy to imagine Garber and her agent brainstorming this book proposal with increasing enthusiasm as the analogies strike: How about realtor as matchmaker? Waiting for the telephone to ring? Open houses as blind dates? Garber, who teaches at Harvard and has six other books to her credit, makes an excellent case for the intimate relationship of sex and real estate. If you buy the concept, you're in for a fine romp through Freudian fields and psychological symmetries that are persuasive, fun and sometimes a bit of a stretch.

Real estate today has become a form of yuppie pornography proclaims the introduction, citing sex and real estate as two of the most erotic terms in the language. In view of current luxuriously sensual lifestyles, it's easy to understand the connections this book makes between grounded possessions and erotic compulsion in chapters on The Dream House, The House as Beloved, The House as Body, The Trophy House, and The Summer House. Other aspects of the comparison are covered in The House as Mother, and The House as History.

Tapping a considerable reservoir of cultural references, Garber views real estate in a two-fold role as both site for sex and itself the object of desire. Adeptly written and playful, her book gets a lot of mileage out of a clever idea. In addition, it offers wry insights on several subjects: for instance, authenticity itself is a desirable commodity which can be advertised, imitated, manufactured, and sold. As the Freudian wave in 20th century psychology attested, it's easy to succumb to the temptation of connecting everything to sex. Really, to paraphrase the great man himself, sometimes a bathtub is just a bathtub.

Still, as I well remember with the first house I bought, seduction by architecture can be a very real emotion, not just, as Garber points out, a substitute or metaphor, but the precursor to a primary relationship. She would not be surprised to hear that the architecture, actually, wasn't that great, but that I will never forget my very first (real estate) love.

Maude McDaniel writes from Cumberland, Maryland.

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