A neighbor has written a book, and as he’s an exceptional neighbor I’m pleased to mention it. One thing Ed Zotti accomplished in his domestic overhaul, documented in The Barn House: Confessions of an Urban Rehabber, was to increase the value of all our properties by transforming his own (thanks, Ed!). The Reader‘s got an excerpt posted, and Zotti will be reading at the Barnes & Noble in Lincoln Park on Thursday.

Previous occupants of the Zottis’ house were theater giant Paul Sills and his family, and when Sills died three months ago I noted that only an artistic genius could have tolerated such immense decay. Zotti is known around the Reader for his decades of unremitting service on behalf of The Straight Dope, and only someone so compelled to sweat details and wrestle chaos into coherence could have completed his task. It took years, but he transformed the monstrosity in the middle of our block into something not just livable but actually handsome.

The excerpt drew a reminiscence from Joe Bryl, who lived in the house with friends for a time while the Sillses were away. Says Bryl, “The house at that time was in ill-repair with numerous gaping faults. During one rather chilly Chicago winter the kitchen had a huge icicle that reached from the ceiling to the floor. . . . Being that we all lived there on equally meager funds (the rent was very low) we looked upon the house with amusement. It was known to our friends as the ‘Munster Mansion’ with its dilapidated facade and interior.“