Late in Real Estate, the third installment of British writer Deborah Levy’s excellent Living Autobiography, Levy discovers that an acquaintance of hers knew the late French novelist Marguerite Duras in childhood. On learning this, Levy instantly wishes that Duras would join them, “sit down and give me some tips on running my house and household.”
Often while reading Real Estate, which is a playful, candid, and a supremely elegant exploration of Levy’s concept of — and desire for — home, I found myself wishing that she would come sit down with me.
Levy often makes me a greedy reader, eager for much more than she offers. I mean this as very high praise. Her writing, especially in her memoirs, tends to take the form of short, lightly lyrical sections, some no more than a paragraph long. Each one holds a beautifully distilled idea, a question worth returning to, or a description so cockeyed and lovely it begs the reader to linger. In Real Estate, Levy reserves her prettiest writing — which, I should note, is never, ever flowery — for her “unreal estate”: the dream house she designs and redesigns throughout the book. It has an egg-shaped fireplace, a pomegranate tree, and light green shutters. Outside, in its “unreal grounds,” she keeps a rowboat tied on the banks of a river.
In real life, Levy spends half the memoir living in the small London flat she shares with her younger daughter — and the other half on a fellowship in Paris, in an apartment she calls her “empty nest.” She knows full well that she cannot afford the “major house” of her dreams; real estate, she writes, is not only “a self-portrait and a class portrait, [but] also a body arranging its limbs to seduce.” For Levy, permitting herself to be seduced is enjoyable, perhaps more so than owning the house of her dreams might be. Certainly she is unwilling to sacrifice her personal freedom or artistic integrity on the altar of homeownership: When film executives approach her, asking her to write a movie but rejecting the complex female protagonists she proposes, she never seems swayed by the lure of churning out a bad script, cashing in, and buying her fantasy house. Instead, she holds to the pleasure of wanting: “Perhaps,” she thinks, “it was not [the idea of] the house but desire itself that makes me feel more alive.”
Feeling alive is a major preoccupation of Levy’s, as is feeling “like herself” — a challenge, she notes, for most women, who are more often encouraged to be likeable than to be like ourselves. She writes with deep love about her aging friend Celia, who rejects “patriarchy’s idea of what an old woman should be like: patient, self-sacrificing, servicing everybody’s needs, pretending to be cheerful.” Visiting Celia before leaving for Paris propels Levy into a consideration of her own aging, which takes up much of the memoir’s latter half. On the verge of her 60th birthday, having raised two children and weathered a divorce, Levy feels as if she has recently come home to herself. Still, though, she finds herself restless, eager to learn new ways of living well — hence her fantasy of getting life tips from Marguerite Duras, or the “unexpected honour [and] primal enjoyment” she feels when cooking for, and spending time with, her daughters and their friends. Some of Real Estate‘s liveliest scenes take place in Girls & Women, the imaginary café Levy jokes about opening; the main entrée, her daughters tell her, would be vodka & cigarettes.
Real Estate is, largely, a book about the collisions of fantasies and real life, or perhaps a synthesis of the two. This sets it apart from other recent books about homeownership, from Rachel Cusk’s doomy novel Second Place to Eula Biss’ self-serious memoir Having and Being Had. especially, becomes tangled in class guilt, which she investigates without addressing. Levy, in contrast, seems incapable of getting bogged down in guilt, politics, or anything else. In part, this freedom comes from her comfort with her own politics, shaped by feminism and by her South African family’s dissidence against apartheid. It also comes from her style. She bounces breezily in and out of reality, relying heavily on allusive logic and odd, charming collages of ideas. In one excellent passage at the book’s start, she moves from a banana tree to the tree-seller’s “luscious” fake eyelashes to Georgia O’Keeffe; somehow, this progression of images delivers her to her longing for “a house in which I could live and work and make a world at my own pace.”
Reading Real Estate is very much like occupying into a world that moves at Levy’s pace. It is vibrant and kinetic, never predictable and yet always direct. Like all Levy’s books, it is as good on the second read as the first, if not better. Few writers are able to give so much so swiftly. Levy’s hospitality on the page is a delight.
Lily Meyer is a writer and translator living in Cincinnati, Ohio.
US real estate heir Robert Durst convicted of murdering friend – Al Jazeera English
A California jury has found multimillionaire real estate heir Robert Durst guilty of murdering his longtime friend Susan Berman in 2000, the first homicide conviction for a man suspected of killing three people in three states over the past 39 years.
Durst, 78 and frail, will likely die in prison as the jury also found him guilty on Friday of the special circumstances of lying in wait and killing a witness, which carry a mandatory life sentence. Superior Court Judge Mark Windham, who oversaw the trial, set a sentencing hearing for October 18.
The trial came six years after Durst’s apparent confession was aired in the HBO television documentary series The Jinx, in which Durst was caught on a hot microphone in the toilet saying to himself, “What the hell did I do? … Killed them all, of course.”
The nine-woman, three-man jury had deliberated for seven and a half hours over three days for Friday’s decision. Durst, who has been in jail for the duration of the trial, was not present for the reading of the verdict because he was in isolation after having been exposed to somebody with COVID-19.
Windham decided to have the verdict read in Durst’s absence. Speaking to lawyers for both sides later, he called the case “the most extraordinary trial that I’ve ever seen or even heard about”.
Lead prosecutor John Lewin, who had pursued Durst for years, credited The Jinx filmmakers Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling for their revealing interviews with Durst, telling reporters after the verdict: “Without them having conducted the interviews, we wouldn’t be where we are.”
In closing arguments, Lewin called Durst a “narcissistic psychopath” who killed Berman in an attempt to cover up the disappearance of his wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst, in New York in 1982.
Durst was only on trial for killing Berman in California, but prosecutors argued he murdered three people: his missing wife, Berman and a neighbour in Texas who discovered his identity when Durst was hiding from the law.
Despite long being a suspect in the disappearance of his wife, a 29-year-old medical student, Durst was never charged. Prosecutors said he killed her, then decided to kill Berman 18 years later because she had told others that she helped Durst cover up the crime. Berman, 55, was shot in the back of her head inside her Beverly Hills home.
Shortly after the verdict, the McCormack family issued a statement urging prosecutors in Westchester County, New York, to prosecute Durst.
“The justice system in Los Angeles has finally served the Berman family. It is now time for Westchester to do the same for the McCormack family,” the statement said.
Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah reopened the case in May, shortly after taking office.
Her office issued a statement on Friday commending those involved in securing the conviction, but a spokesperson said the Westchester investigation “remains ongoing and we will have no further comment at this time”.
‘Sick old man’
Defence lawyers portrayed Durst, a cancer survivor who testified from a wheelchair wearing a baggy jail uniform, as a “sick old man”. But he withstood 15 days as a witness, nine of them under cross-examination.
During a 58-day trial spread over a year and a half, including a one-year delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, Durst testified that he discovered Berman’s murdered body when he went to visit her but did not call the police.
The prosecution also delved into the 2001 death and dismemberment of Morris Black, who was Durst’s neighbour in Galveston, Texas. A Galveston jury acquitted Durst of murder, even though Durst admitted he chopped up Black’s body and dumped it in Galveston Bay.
Durst said Black pulled a gun on him and was shot accidentally when the two men wrestled over the firearm.
Black’s death marked the second time Durst had a dead body at his feet, according to his testimony.
In both cases, Durst said he at first tried to call the 911 emergency number, but later decided against it, fearing nobody would believe he was not guilty.
Besides The Jinx audio, two other pieces of evidence appeared to damage Durst’s defence. One was the recorded 2017 testimony of Nick Chavin, a mutual friend who said Durst admitted to him in 2014 that he had killed Berman.
“It was her or me. I had no choice,” Chavin recounted Durst telling him.
Durst also admitted he authored a handwritten letter to Beverly Hills police with the word “cadaver” and Berman’s address, directing them to her undiscovered body. Durst had denied writing the note for 20 years.
Durst is the grandson of the founder of The Durst Organization, one of New York City’s premier real estate companies.
He long ago left the company, now run by his estranged brother Douglas Durst, who testified at trial and said of his sibling: “He’d like to murder me.”
Detached home in Toronto is attainable for $700,000 says real estate agent – NOW Toronto
The two-bedroom listing at 15 Beechwood is appealing to renovators and first-time home buyers
A detached home listed for just under $700,000 sounds too good to be true in the Toronto real estate market. The average price for a home in the city is at $1,000,008, the lowest it’s been since February, according to the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB). Meanwhile the average for detached homes in the city is still hovering around $1.7 million, a full six figures more than the listed $699,900 price for 15 Beechwood in the Jane and Eglinton area.
According to WE Realty broker of record Odeen Eccleston that price may actually be attainable, even though similar lots on the street sold between $865,000 and $880,000 over the summer.
“We don’t have enough information yet about the condition inside the home,” says Eccleston. She adds that any potential buyers should consider booking a home inspector, especially since the listing is marketed to investors and renovators along with first-time buyers without providing any photos of the interior.
Listing agent Lino Arci of Re/MAX Hallmark Lino Arci Group Realty told NOW that the home is currently being rented, which is why photos of the interior have not been made available. He understands that the tenants will be moving out in a couple of weeks. He also adds that the house has been priced fairly, and is not purposefully priced hundreds of thousands below its value to spark a bidding war, a practice that buyers have been wary of in this heated market.
“If we get the asking price, they’ll probably sell it,” says Arci. “I always like to price it right on the money so we sell it quickly.”
The two-bedroom bungalow with a mutual driveway was already listed earlier in the summer, sitting on the market for 48 days before being taken off the market, which Eccleston says bodes well for buyers. Arci explains that the sellers were not happy with their previous real estate agent.
“These are older people,” says Arci. “Sometime a seller expects their agent to be there when they call them and take them through step-by-step. We’re a small team. We can do that.”
Eccleston adds that the bungalow resembles other common listings on the Toronto real estate market, where a home that has been in the family for nearly a century is finally being sold by the family or estate.
Several listings in the Toronto real estate market appeal to builders to tear down old dwellings and build modern new homes. But Eccleston warns buyers to do their math before considering such a venture. Building prices have risen to between $250 to $350 per square foot. On the lower end of the spectrum, a 2,000-square-foot home could cost $500,000 plus soft costs such as municipal permits, surveys and architectural plans, which could add up to upwards of $1.2 million when you add the purchase price. For comparison’s sake, a newly renovated home on the street sold in 2020 for $1.1 million.
But Eccleston says this house could appeal to buyers who have no interest to tear down and build anew, and instead just choose to buy the property cheaply and spend less to renovate the interior.
“Some people are paying more than that for 600-square-foot condos,” says Eccleston. “So they may be willing to put up the money to renovate a detached home that frees them up from paying condo fees.”
“Anyone thinking of getting into the marketplace, they should,” says Arci. “Rates are good. Just jump in.”
Special Feature: Safety net invaluable in current real estate market – Canadian Lawyer Magazine
Real estate has always been considered a high-risk area of practice, and in 2020, real estate reached its highest recorded portion of claims in the market. Running a successful law practice that deals in real estate comes with unique challenges and competition.
Lawyers must ensure that all internal processes are properly adhered to, but it’s not uncommon for experienced lawyers to accidentally overlook details.
This special feature from FCT highlights the benefits of E&O products in real estate practice.
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