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Esther McCoy (1904–89) was a keen literary stylist, perceptive architectural historian, and attentive witness to the birth of midcentury modernist design. McCoy’s impressive writing life spanned sixty years and charted the progressive territory of American idealism from the collective utopian spirit of jazz-age Greenwich Village, through the Depression and WW II to the des Esther McCoy (1904–89) was a keen literary stylist, perceptive architectural historian, and attentive witness to the birth of midcentury modernist design. McCoy’s impressive writing life spanned sixty years and charted the progressive territory of American idealism from the collective utopian spirit of jazz-age Greenwich Village, through the Depression and WW II to the design-driven optimism of postwar Los Angeles. Five California Architects, her landmark 1960 book, has long been recognized as an indispensable classic. As Reyner Banham observed, “No one can write about architecture in California without acknowledging her as the mother of us all.” Piecing Together Los Angeles: An Esther McCoy Reader is the first collection of her writing. From fiction for The New Yorker to seminal essays on new architectural forms, the arc of her work sparkles with a passion for the modern. This essential volume includes out-of-print essays, articles, and short stories, as well as hitherto unpublished lectures, correspondence, and memoirs that together illuminate the breadth and complexity of McCoy’s groundbreaking work. An introductory essay by writer and anthology editor Susan Morgan provides a lucid conceptual framework for understanding the development and diversity of McCoy’s writing and the region that inspired it. [McCoy] has long been a hero among students of modern architecture in southern California, a subject scarcely defined until she came along. ... What has not yet been recognized, or at least not sufficiently recognized, is the subdued power of McCoy's prose. Now, with the publication of Piecing Together Los Angeles: An Esther McCoy Reader, we can see deep into McCoy's complex imagination." —Jed Perl, The New Republic


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Esther McCoy (1904–89) was a keen literary stylist, perceptive architectural historian, and attentive witness to the birth of midcentury modernist design. McCoy’s impressive writing life spanned sixty years and charted the progressive territory of American idealism from the collective utopian spirit of jazz-age Greenwich Village, through the Depression and WW II to the des Esther McCoy (1904–89) was a keen literary stylist, perceptive architectural historian, and attentive witness to the birth of midcentury modernist design. McCoy’s impressive writing life spanned sixty years and charted the progressive territory of American idealism from the collective utopian spirit of jazz-age Greenwich Village, through the Depression and WW II to the design-driven optimism of postwar Los Angeles. Five California Architects, her landmark 1960 book, has long been recognized as an indispensable classic. As Reyner Banham observed, “No one can write about architecture in California without acknowledging her as the mother of us all.” Piecing Together Los Angeles: An Esther McCoy Reader is the first collection of her writing. From fiction for The New Yorker to seminal essays on new architectural forms, the arc of her work sparkles with a passion for the modern. This essential volume includes out-of-print essays, articles, and short stories, as well as hitherto unpublished lectures, correspondence, and memoirs that together illuminate the breadth and complexity of McCoy’s groundbreaking work. An introductory essay by writer and anthology editor Susan Morgan provides a lucid conceptual framework for understanding the development and diversity of McCoy’s writing and the region that inspired it. [McCoy] has long been a hero among students of modern architecture in southern California, a subject scarcely defined until she came along. ... What has not yet been recognized, or at least not sufficiently recognized, is the subdued power of McCoy's prose. Now, with the publication of Piecing Together Los Angeles: An Esther McCoy Reader, we can see deep into McCoy's complex imagination." —Jed Perl, The New Republic

33 review for Piecing Together Los Angeles: An Esther McCoy Reader

  1. 4 out of 5

    Susan Eubank

    Here are the questions we discussed at the Reading the Western Landscape Book Club at the Arboretum Library of the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden on December 2, 2015. (view spoiler)[ • What are five precepts of McCoy's ideas of the architects touted in the book? • Which architect did you like best and why? Which building would you most like to see? Why? • I thought it was an interesting comment about how Gill and his concrete was before his time and the building trades essentially nev Here are the questions we discussed at the Reading the Western Landscape Book Club at the Arboretum Library of the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden on December 2, 2015. (view spoiler)[ • What are five precepts of McCoy's ideas of the architects touted in the book? • Which architect did you like best and why? Which building would you most like to see? Why? • I thought it was an interesting comment about how Gill and his concrete was before his time and the building trades essentially never adapted to the mid-century modern building technologies. What technology from these houses do you wish had been better developed for today? • What did you like/not like about her writing style? Why? • How did this change/not change your view of Los Angeles? • Who is this book written for? • Is she right about how these folks’ architecture changed Los Angeles? Why? Why not? • Which essay did you like best? Why? • Did she have a bias? • Do you have any questions you would like to ask the group? (hide spoiler)]

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    I read this in preparation for my first trip to Los Angeles. very good preparation for going and looking at the wonderful buildings and homes there. She is fun to read!

  3. 5 out of 5

    mayhugh

    A hand in hand walk with Los Angeles and it's architectural past. A hand in hand walk with Los Angeles and it's architectural past.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brad Kembel

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lizzyjk

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  7. 4 out of 5

    Adam

  8. 5 out of 5

    P L

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kaveri

  10. 5 out of 5

    Andy May

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jean

  12. 5 out of 5

    Gabriel

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mia

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ward

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bayh

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jen

  17. 4 out of 5

    mason

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  19. 5 out of 5

    Evan

  20. 4 out of 5

    Maura

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sam Koopman

  22. 5 out of 5

    Colin Marshall

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mercedes

  24. 4 out of 5

    Christa

  25. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

  26. 5 out of 5

    Polly

  27. 4 out of 5

    Magdalena Milosz

  28. 4 out of 5

    Deena Widran

  29. 5 out of 5

    Peter Zingg

  30. 5 out of 5

    Calli

  31. 5 out of 5

    Alicia Vogl Saenz

  32. 5 out of 5

    Kristin Chong

  33. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

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