The name, Le Corbusier, rang a bell. I knew he was a twentieth-century architect. French, probably (Swiss, actually). Big concrete buildings came to mThe name, Le Corbusier, rang a bell. I knew he was a twentieth-century architect. French, probably (Swiss, actually). Big concrete buildings came to mind. But that’s about all I knew off the top of my head. I had no idea that he was responsible for modular architecture, or that he was among the first to try to address overpopulation through dense urban planning. And I was certainly unaware that Le Corbusier was tackling all of this as early as the 1920s. Thus, Anthony Flint’s biography, Modern Man, is a worthy venture, shedding light on this thinker and provocateur who, outside of architecture and design circles, has undeservedly fallen out of recognition.
Of course, as with most visionaries, Le Corbusier had his share of missteps, often due to a megalomania and opportunism that wouldn’t keep him from working with anyone when it suited him, even the Nazi-connected Vichy Regime in WWII France. And, while he basically gave us IKEA and some initial ideas and blueprints to build smarter, he also championed the type of urban design that gave us crime-ridden housing projects and car-centric sprawl in America. He’s definitely a polarizing figure, but Flint reminds us not to throw the baby “out with the modernist bathwater.” (p. 213) Or, more poignantly:
“For the twenty-first-century, however, among the greatest lessons to be learned from Le Corbusier are his design innovations in housing, and his recognition of the grand scale necessary to accommodate millions of people moving into cities each year. The reasons those contributions are important is because the urban century has arrived, in dramatic fashion.” (p. 213)
Flint’s writing is clear and engaging, making for a fairly quick read. He structures each chapter around a major project of Le Corbusier's, so those looking for a strictly chronological biography may grow a bit frustrated, as the narrative does bounce around quite a bit (an aspect I mostly found intriguing, though, at the start of a few chapters, I did find myself a bit confused as to which decade we had landed in). Regardless, those interested in architecture, built environments, urban planning, or even just design, will be hard pressed not to gain some insight from this text....more
A tale chock full of dualities, wherein characters, events, and themes find themselves paired with one another in manners that are at once complimentaA tale chock full of dualities, wherein characters, events, and themes find themselves paired with one another in manners that are at once complimentary and contrapuntal. Queneau is wonderful at imbuing a single moment with competing forces that, rather than cancel each other out, add nuance and complexity. An ordinary day in Queneau’s Paris is at once tragic and hopeful, bitter and hilarious....more
I return to this little gem every time I feel I need to brush up on my french. And, much to my surprise, Ferlinghetti's translation is always satisfyiI return to this little gem every time I feel I need to brush up on my french. And, much to my surprise, Ferlinghetti's translation is always satisfying....more
A most humane novel. Of all the texts I've read that deal with WWII, *Suite Francaise* explores the most facets of experience within this tremendous eA most humane novel. Of all the texts I've read that deal with WWII, *Suite Francaise* explores the most facets of experience within this tremendous event, and it does so without ever leaving France, and, in the second book, without ever leaving a small, pastoral, and occupied town.
Add to this the incredible biographical events that shaped this novel, and you have an astounding book on your hands....more
His prose poems, especially the *Paris Spleen* collection, have influenced my own writing and the way I read poetry tremendously. Plus, you have to reHis prose poems, especially the *Paris Spleen* collection, have influenced my own writing and the way I read poetry tremendously. Plus, you have to respect the man who fine-tuned the art of being a flaneur....more
This is my third time through The Sun Also Rises, and I was struck, yet again—a good ten years after having last read this—at the enjoyability of theThis is my third time through The Sun Also Rises, and I was struck, yet again—a good ten years after having last read this—at the enjoyability of the text. It’s funny and lively, and, when approached as a period piece, it’s quite transporting. Of course, the pacing is also wonderful—I’m always impressed with Hemingway’s clarity, conciseness, and control (iceberg method indeed…).
This time around I tried to involved myself more with the characters, and I quickly realized that, while everyone is grappling with their own specific issue (each is “lost” in their own way), each struggle is paralleled in some way with (an)other character(s)—for instance, the shared attraction of Cohn, Barnes, and Campbell with Brett; or, more metaphorically, Jake’s impotence and Brett’s seeming inability to truly love one person. Thus, we truly are presented with a "lost generation," and the connective threads are these shared struggles.
And, yet, as I already mentioned, there is a vitality in the novel, which stems from optimism and passion (however melancholic and nostalgic at times) that I hadn’t really noticed before. Hemingway seems very convinced, in an almost religious / moralistic way (for better or for worse), that there is hope for these characters, and this conviction is what gives the novel a mission, or even a plot (of sorts). It also imbues the text with an energy and joie de vivre, the roots of which I’d not fully grasped in previous readings. ...more