Michael Pollan's unmatched ability to draw lines of connection between our everyday experiences-- whether eating, gardening, or building--and the natural world has been the basis for the popular success of his many works of nonfiction, including the genre-defining bestsellers The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food. With this updated edition of his earlier book A Place of My Own, readers can revisit the inspired, intelligent, and often hilarious story of Pollan's realization of a room of his own--a small, wooden hut, his "shelter for daydreams"--built with his admittedly unhandy hands. Inspired by both Thoreau and Mr. Blandings, A Place of My Own not only works to convey the history and meaning of all human building, it also marks the connections between our bodies, our minds, and the natural world.
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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December 29, 2008
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