A Place of My Own:: The Education of an Amateur Builder

Michael Pollan, Author
Michael Pollan, Author Random House (NY) $24 (320p) ISBN 978-0-679-41532-9
Reviewed on: 03/03/1997
Release date: 03/01/1997
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Pollan, a freelance writer, columnist (House & Garden) and editor (Harper's) with no knowledge or experience as a carpenter or builder, decided he wanted a place of his own to write inDan elegant ""hut"" with electricity but without plumbing to be built somewhere behind his house in rural ConnecticutDand he would build it himself. His aim was ""to get away from words,"" and he signed on a sympathetic professional architect from Harvard Square and a not always patient carpenter. His account of the adventure, which in fact is very involved with words, follows the project from its theoretical stage, choosing the exact site (which characteristically included research into classical Roman, Ming dynasty Chinese, 18th-century British and contemporary ""scientific"" concepts of site selection), drawing the plans (something of a crash course in contemporary architectural theory) andDfinally leaving theory in the dustDdigging the footings, raising the uprights, laying the roof (perhaps the most entertaining section), cutting in windows and threading the electrical wires. Pollan has a self-admitted weakness for overanalysis, but it is a human failing that should appeal to anyone drawn to his book in the first place. Thoreau gets mentioned a lot, as do Jefferson and Frank Lloyd Wright, but as the project moves toward completionDmore expensively, of course, than he ever expectedDPollan comes to appreciate some very nontheoretical distinctions, such as the difference between windows that swing inward and ones that swing outward. The result is a very special armchair adventure. (Mar.)
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