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A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams Paperback – December 30, 2008
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Praise for A Place of My Own
“A glorious piece of prose . . . Pollan leads readers on his adventure with humor and grace.”
“[Pollan] alternates between describing the building process and introducing informative asides on various aspects of construction. These explanations are deftly and economically supplied. Pollan’s beginner status serves him well, for he asks the kind of obvious questions about building that most readers will want answered.”
—The New York Review of Books
“By shrewdly combining just the right mix of personal reflection, architectural background, and nuts-and-bolts detail, Michael Pollan enables us to see, feel, and understand what goes into the building of a house. The result is a captivating and informative adventure.”
—John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
“An utterly terrific book . . . an inspired meditation on the complex relationship between space, the human body and the human spirit.”
—Francine du Plessix Gray
“A tour de force . . . [Pollan] writes gracefully and humanely. He is a true carpenter-craftsman of prose.”
From the Inside Flap
"A room of one's own: is there anybody who hasn't at one time or another wished for such a place, hasn't turned those soft words over until they'd assumed a habitable shape?"
When writer Michael Pollan decided to plant a garden, the result was an award-winning treatise on the borders between nature and contemporary life, the acclaimed bestseller Second Nature. Now Pollan turns his sharp insight to the craft of building, as he recounts the process of designing and constructing a small one-room structure on his rural Connecticut property--a place in which he hoped to read, write and daydream, built with his two own unhandy hands.
Invoking the titans of architecture, literature and philosophy, from Vitrivius to Thoreau, from the Chinese masters of feng shui to the revolutionary Frank Lloyd Wright, Pollan brilliantly chronicles a realm of blueprints, joints and trusses as he peers into the ephemeral nature of "houseness" itself. From the spark of an idea to the search for a perfect site to the raising of a ridgepole, Pollan revels in the infinitely detailed, complex process of creating a finished structure. At once superbly written, informative and enormously entertaining, A Place of My Own is for anyone who has ever wondered how the walls around us take shape--and how we might shape them ourselves.
A Place of My Own recounts his two-and-a-half-year journey of discovery in an absorbing narrative that deftly weaves the day-to-day work of design and building--from siting to blueprint, from the pouring of foundations to finish carpentry--with reflections on everything form the power of place to shape our lives to the question of what constitutes "real work" in a technologicalsociety.
A book about craft that is itself beautifully crafted, linking the world of the body and material things with the realm of mind, heart, and spirit, "A Place of My Own has received extraordinary praise: -->
"From the Trade Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
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Pollan refers frequently to Thoreau and shared his desire to find a place of his own to write and spent untold hours surveying his land, bringing a chair to rest upon to look at each aspect at different times of day before selecting the perfect site for his hut. He wrote a letter to his architect to describe what he was looking for, and pored over drawings with the architect. Realizing his limitations as a handyman, he selected a skilled young carpenter to help him one day a week on the project. He visited the mill from which the wood was sourced, and found a custom shop to produce the windows where he planed some of the lumber for the framework himself. He developed a genuine reverence for the wood used in his hut, having selected and sanded and nailed almost every piece himself. He wrote that "buildings give us a way to leave a lasting mark, to conduct a conversation across the generations."
He concluded with "So this was the house for the self that stood a little apart and at an angle, the self that thought a good place to spend the day was between two walls of books in front of a big window overlooking life." The book concludes just as he is moving his books into the "writing house". I only wished that he had extended the book a bit to give us some flavor of his experience of working in the writing house, whether it inspired him or made him more productive. Indeed his writing career really flourished after the hut was built, but I think only his first book or two were written in Connecticut before he moved to Berkeley, California.
There's certainly some of that present in this book, but there's also a lot of talk on architecture and its movement and meanings. A lot. I consider myself a bit of an information sponge and love learning about a variety of topics, but I found this very dry. I often wished the discussions of architecture included basic drawings the same way some of the construction detail sections do, so that perhaps I'd have some concrete idea what he was referring to. This is a very "writerly", head in the clouds, theoretical take on a subject, and for me it was just too abstract.
Pollan is at his best in this book when describing people. He brings his carpenter and his architect to vivid life and imbues a real sense of humor into his work with, and challenge between, each of them. The segment about how all roads lead to gun control with carpenter Joe is without a doubt my favorite few pages in the book. The details of construction and his reverence for his materials are engaging and understandable, despite my lack of familiarity with the subject.
All told, this is a well-written book that happened to miss the mark for me personally.
I'm jealous because I'd love a retreat like that to write and read in.
Pollan's writing style is easy to read. He's also not afraid to poke fun at himself when he messes things up. It's like talking to a friend.
Most recent customer reviews
I do like his skewering of the modern and pos-modern architects.Read more