At the threshold of summer, the sunglasses are on. Running in blue-sky mode, I’ve been talking up some ideas for multiplying the writing workshop times the architecture studio. Their product would be a format for storytelling across media, an alignment of complimentary strengths really well suited to engage the built environment.
Two weeks ago today, I woke up reading an email that Watertown was closed. The Boston, Cambridge, and Watertown police departments had sealed a perimeter. No entrance, no exit. The office was closed. I had started working for a landscape architecture practice in Watertown that Monday, the morning of the Marathon. After three months on the city’s outskirts, writing full-time, at last I had started traveling around Boston and Cambridge. The Lockdown froze the city in its novelty for me.
In two sequential hurricane seasons, the Earth has mounted two solid runs at (re)producing the plot of Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow. It’s good Rich’s second novel found print this spring. After Irene and Sandy, there’s this spooky feeling that it’s only a matter of time before greater disaster strikes.
On the Near-Future Novelist: Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich
The modern novel is probably an unintended consequence of nineteenth-century European cities. James Wood glosses the idea in his handbook How Fiction Works. The breakthrough narration in Madame Bovary, for instance, a stylish authorial voice that seemingly dissolves into the consciousness of its subjects on a wash of image and detail, corresponds to a boom in European industrial urbanism. Its vector is the flâneur: the young and loitering, the unemployable café-sitters, the arcade-browsers. These onlookers adapted their eyes to the city’s “large, bewilderingly various amounts of detail,” says Wood.
The Fiction and Nonfiction of the St. Petersburg Pier
In the Upper Bay of New York’s harbor, there is a new urban island under construction. Technically, this project is a work of rejuvenation or, as professionals say, adaptive re-use. A military installation since colonial times, Governors Island hosted a U.S. Army base until the mid-1960s. Then the Coast Guard took over, operating there until 1997, when the federal government deeded the island to the City and State of New York. Good timing. The subsequent fifteen years saw New York City’s most radical re-invention since the invention of the elevator.
Buckminster: Profiles of Available Buildings, Governors Island