Book Review

by MARTY DEMAREST & r & Homekeeping Handbook by Martha Stewart & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & G & lt;/span & uides to maintaining our living spaces are like anthropological studies done on us, by us. And if Martha Stewart has her say, it's for our own good too.

In her hefty, hi-gloss Homekeeping Handbook, Stewart emerges as a strongly authoritarian figure who urges us, above all else, to make our beds. "Tidiness begets tidiness," she explains, revealing that for Martha Stewart, it's about a process, not just a quick fix. To that end, she lists a "Universal Clean Kit" a few pages after her breezy primer on the pH scale. She also recommends that I "insist that everyone in the household" pick up clutter.

Stewart's sternness is a nice compliment to her status as an ex-con. She's got at least as much clout as any rapper, so when she says that I must "ensure everything that goes into the refrigerator is immaculate," I take her seriously. Her wide-margined pages are full of information on the vagaries of modern life, with a recurring and sizable chunk given over to electronic appliances. Regular features are "Golden Rules" of doing tasks and checklists for cleaning kits, which Stewart loves to stash around the home.

But Stewart is still hampered by her Hamptons lifestyle. Since college, much of my life -- and the lives of many of my friends -- has revolved around futons and brick-walled apartments. Despite several dozen pages on the topics of adult bedrooms and the best way to make hospital corners on sheets, the futon is not mentioned at all. And though Martha has some great dusting tips for the ornate frames of paintings, she doesn't offer any advice for efficiently hanging pictures on rented brick.

Though she tries to be comprehensive by including sections of fire safety and emergency preparedness, it's clear that Stewart shines when she gets to delineate several different methods of producing a classic dust rag. (The most glamorous involves buying several cleaning products and soaking pristine cloth in them.) The entire garage is shunted into the "Utility Spaces" chapter, which is odd considering the ubiquity of automobiles. But when the subject of wire whisks arises, expect a two-page photo spread.