LeGuin, Maybeck and Frank Lloyd Wright

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SDR
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Post by SDR »

And this isn't even a particularly spectacular Maybeck . . .!

The redwood floor anecdote makes little sense, mechanically; no wood used in construction has a memory-foam consistency. The only possible
reading is that a piece of flooring lay on a dropped joist, from which it had come partially detached, such that a nail would grab---for a while---when
the floorboards were stepped upon, later springing back to their habitual shape, audibly. Even this explanation doesn't really match the description given
by the imaginative child----or is it the imaginative adult, recalling a child-like dream or fantasy ?

As for stairs, it's one thing to omit handrails, as Mr Wright appears to have done, repeatedly---I assume because he didn't like random diagonals
interrupting his carefully-wrought orthogonalities; it's quite another to suggest that an architect would or could eliminate the stairs themselves ! I mean,
really . . .

S

Tom
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Post by Tom »

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing about the redwood.
Here is a point at which some research would have sharpened the essay.
Yet the phenomena she describes as experienced is wonderful.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Certainly the intangible experiences and memories of residence, by residents, might be, more than mere shelter, the real meaning of architecture. Who
doesn't learn where the squeaky floorboards and stairsteps are, in a house occupied for decades . . .

I haven't read much Le Guin---but the kinds of impressions and memories recorded in his fiction by Ray Bradbury are among my favorite recollections of
fiction read in my youth. He seemed particularly attuned to the old wooden houses of which we speak, and of the leafy trees and sweet-smelling lawns in
their sleepy suburban environments ?

S

jay
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Post by jay »

Hmm. Well I suppose a house made of that much wood will make some random creaks and pops. Perhaps Ms. LeGuin, recalling memories some 60 years later, took creative liberty with them?

Or perhaps it's a broader illustration of her point, that this home helped create the person she became––a very talented sci-fi/fantasy author.

She writes prior to the redwood floor anecdote: "Surely, if you have lived in one house from birth to maturity, you're going to find the house entangled with your psyche..... If I recall my childhood, I recall that house. It is where everything happened. It is where I happened."

As Bachelard professes, the house is the shelter for daydreams. LeGuin's extraordinary story of the redwood sounds we learn is fantasy and not reality. This might disappoint the realist, but now re-thinking it, maybe this anecdote supplies the clearest example of how the Maybeck house inspired the formative imagination of a writer?

She concludes her essay with: "Writing this, I wonder if much of my understanding of what a novel ought to be was taught to me, ultimately, by living in that house. If so, perhaps all my life I have been trying to rebuild it around me out of words."

Tom
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Post by Tom »

I discovered LeGuin in 2014, before she died, when Truthdig posted this speech by her.
After that I started to read everything I could get my hands on.
She never resolves conflict in her novels with war, unlike- for example Harry Potter:
a publishing effort that comes in for some of her criticism in what follows:


Freedom
A speech in acceptance of the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, November 2014

"To the givers of this beautiful reward, my thanks, from the heart.
My family, my agents, my editors, know that my being here is their doing as well as my own, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine.
And I rejoice in accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who've been
excluded from literature for so long - my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction, writers of the imagination, who for fifty years have watched the
beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.
Hard times are coming, when we'll be wanting voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society
and it's obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope.
We'll need writers who can remember freedom - poets, visionaries - realists of a larger reality.
Right now, we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art.
Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.
Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial.
I see my own publishers, in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging
public libraries for an e-book six or seven times more than they charge customers.
We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience, and writers threatened by corporate fatwa.
And I see a lot of us, the producers, who write books and make the books, accepting this
- letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish, what to write.
Books aren't just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art.
We live in capitalism, it's power seems inescapable - but then, so did the divine right of kings.
Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.
Resistance and change often begin in art; very often in our art, the art of words.
I've had a long career as a writer, and a good one, in good company.
Here at the end of it, I don't want to watch American literature get sold down the river.
We who live by writing and publishing want and should demand our fair share of the proceeds;
but the name of our beautiful reward isn't profit.
It's name is freedom."

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

I agree, SDR, the Schneider House (1907) is a Lesser Maybeck from his early years. One of his last efforts is my favorite, the second house he designed for his son Wallen in 1937. The son's earlier house still had a hint of Swiss chalet, but the second was completely original.

As to squeaking wood, Bob Sweeney told me of a night he spent in the redwood Gamble House, that the entire structure squeaked all night long. It obviously had to do with temperature fluctuations from the heat of the day to the cool of a Pasadena night. No memory-foam there.

Tom
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Post by Tom »

That's the concrete house right?

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Yes, Tom�the second house for Maybeck the younger.

Le Guin speech right on ...

Crediting the house with her “understanding of what a novel should be� seems a bit much�but who am I to say ? (Don’t all reply at once.)

S

Tom
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Post by Tom »


SDR
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Post by SDR »

https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/ ... 542339.php

Looking for plan drawing, early photos of Wallen II. Concrete, metal roof, steel casements (as in Berkeley Christian Science church). Norman forms in modern material---Maybeck's less-familiar side ?

S

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

The Wallen 2 plan is in "Bernard Maybeck, Visionary Architect" by Sally B. Woodbridge, page 200 (also interior photos). On page 232 of Kenneth Cardwell's book (1977) are an elevation and a perspective. There is also an article in Fine Homebuilding from the '80s.

jay
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Post by jay »

Crediting the house with her “understanding of what a novel should be� seems a bit much�but who am I to say ?
To be fair, she "wondered" about its influence.

I think the answer lies somewhere in the idea of "living inside of a book", which is a way of saying the reader enters a mental space that the novel supplies. Fantasy novels seem to offer an especially elaborate condition of this, whether it be in the land of "Middle-earth" or "Narnia" or "Wonderland" or "Neverland" or "Earthsea". A realistic novel isn't much different. A realistic setting might hope to represent a real place accurately, yet regardless the novel is experienced not through the perceptual senses but through the imagination. Which means the novel is always set in a mental space.

For a young writer to be influenced by an artistically shaped "world"––the Maybeck interior––she'd be understanding how physical space was used to create an idealized reality. And that would become a model to look to while creating psychical "places" for her readers to be.

"....perhaps all my life I have been trying to rebuild it around me out of words."

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Do her novels excel in descriptions of physical---especially, man-made---spaces, I wonder ? Or am I looking for too literal a translation . . .

S

jay
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Post by jay »

Well that's not what I was trying to get at....

And I haven't read enough of her stuff to answer the question.

Tom
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Post by Tom »

LeGuin's descriptions of fictional material culture, cities, streets, parks, houses,
clothes, music, food, agriculture, rocketships, are all secondary but well drawn and appealing.
Nature is well described too.
Her center of attention however is personal, social, political - in a broad sense.
Her Maybeck house I imagine supported her genius level imagination.
I imagine as a child her house was her friend, supporting, confirming, validating ...

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