Joan Kron

GreeceI had the honor to have lunch with Joan Kron today.  Ms. Kron is interesting for many reasons, but she won my particular admiration for having run  a smuggling ring for most of her career.

Joan works the coast line between the academic archipelago and the Agean sea of journalism.  Clearly, these two domains find one another in miles of contact,  but they have been policed so well and so viciously that scholarly discourse and popular communication were, until recently, very close to mutually exclusive categories. 

In High-Tech, Ms. Kron identified the fact and the origins of a trend that is only now washing into the suburb.  (Think Metro shelving, open, metal shelves designed to withstand cold temperature in industrial kitchens.  No, you don’t have this but believe your neighbors do.)  Ms. Kron saw this in the late 1970s.

is, in my opinion, the single best translation of academic ideas for popular consumption.  Ms. Kron interviewed academics on the topic of how and why Americans construct this thing called "home."  I was one of them.  I began the interview with trepidation.  Not to worry.  Joan has, if I may mix my metaphors, great "return of service."  She gets it and returns it effortlessly.  (I have said ungallant things about Yale on the blog, but if Joan is the proper measure of the school, I take them all back.)

Lift was a careful study of the plastic surgery business.  Joan interviews doctors and patients.  She submitted to plastic surgery of her own. She is now regarded as the single most expert "civilian" (non MD) in the world. 

Has she been well treated?  Academics, designers, and other journalists have taken turns heaping scorn upon her work.  Clare Cooper Marcus took special pleasure in her assault on Home-Psych.  Many of this thought this was sad, because Marcus isn’t very bright and her competing book isn’t very good.  But she got a reading that Kron did not, because she has credentials that Kron does not. 

Of course, these days we waltz back and forth across these boundaries without a second thought.  This is the license of our new post-modernist mobility.  But sometimes I see a youngster engage in academic trespass, and I think to myself, "You know, it was always so.  It used to take a small boat, a shuttered lantern, and all the guts you could muster."


Cooper Marcus, Clare.  1997.  House as a mirror of the self, exploring the deeper meaning of home.  Berkeley: Conari Press.

Kron, Joan and Suzanne Slesin. 1978. High-Tech: The Industrial Style and Source Book for the Home.  New York: Clarkson Potter. 

Kron, Joan.  1983.  Home-Psych: the social psychology of home and decoration.  New York: Clarkson N. Potter.

Kron, Joan. 1998.  Lift: wanting and having a face lift.  New York: Viking.

One thought on “Joan Kron

  1. Clare Cooper Marcus

    Where, exactly, did I take “…special pleasure in her assault on Home-Psych..”?
    Let me know and I will do my best to erase it. As to your assertion that academics get attention and jounalist/writers do not, that is plan ridiculous. Look at flood of recent anti-Bush books; “A Sense of Place ” by Tony Hiss; “Last Child out of the Woods” by Richard Louv. Many of us in academia have been writing about the demise of children’s outdoor environments for many years. It takes a good journalist like Richard Louv to pull it all together and get national attention. We need more wriers like him !

Comments are closed.