I’ve had historic preservation, or lack of, on my mind this past week.
As my “Montclairvoyant” column link at the end of this post describes, my town’s Planning Board sadly voted February 11 to approve a redo of a former train station that will wreck some historic elements of the vintage site. Elsewhere in town, two beautiful mansions — one dating back to 1865, the other to 1907 — were demolished several days ago to make way for a future obscenely large single-family compound with a spa, an indoor pool, a movie theater, a bowling alley, a basketball court, seven guest rooms, a staff wing, etc.
So, naturally my thoughts turned to building destruction in the literary world.
For instance, some of you may remember that the Los Angeles house author extraordinaire Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) lived in for more than 50 years was torn down in 2015 by a heartless architect who wanted to put a fancy new house on the site.
Then there was the New York City apartment building Willa Cather lived in with her friend/life partner Edith Lewis starting in 1913. The two of them had to leave the place in 1927 — the year Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop came out — when their Manhattan building was condemned to make way for a subway line. (The photo atop this blog post shows Cather — sitting left, on the bench — in Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park in 1924.)
Of course, fictional works also feature plenty of ill-fated homes and other structures — surely a dramatic plot element.
For instance, the devastating fire that ruined Edward Rochester’s Thornfield Hall mansion is a pivotal occurrence in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.
There’s also a key house fire near the end of Lee Child’s Echo Burning — a Jack Reacher novel whose title sounds rather surreal/metaphysical/philosophical but literally refers to a climactic blaze on a ranch in fictional Echo County, Texas.
And a fire at the New York World building is a major element in Jack Finney’s time-travel novel Time and Again.
Or how about Anthony Burgess’ historical novel The Kingdom of the Wicked, which ends with the burying of Pompeii? Unimaginable destruction there.
And in Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Fall of the House of Usher,” that titular abode ends up disintegrating.
Of course, war novels and apocalyptic novels — Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is one example of the latter — are filled with buildings bombed-out or otherwise destroyed.
Your most-remembered examples of structural destruction — of real-life author homes or fictional buildings?
My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.
In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece — which comments on what’s mentioned in the second paragraph of this blog post — is here.