I’m reading Zadie Smith on “Rereading Barthes and Nabokov,” and her essay leads with this:
The novels we know best have an architecture. Not only a door going in and another leading out, but rooms, hallways, stairs, little gardens front and back, trapdoors, hidden passageways, et cetera.
Which reminded me of what I was trying to say here when I talked about Fallingwater and fiction (and about writing a fiction set at Fallingwater):
Wright leads you through space and sounds and organic substances that you’ve never experienced in a house. (And isn’t that akin to what writers aspire to with fiction: leading readers through narrative space?)
And the next thing I knew Zadie Smith was talking about Wright and comparing him to Nabokov. In response to Roland Barthes’s claim that the Author is dead, that only the text is important, Smith says:
I think of [Nabokov] as one of the last, great twentieth-century believers in the autonomy of the Author, as Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the last believers in the Architect. They both specialized in theatrical interviews, struck self-regarding and self-mythologizing poses, all of which would mean nothing (the Author being dead, you don’t have to listen to his self-descriptions) if it weren’t for the fact that they wove the restrictions and privileges of authorship into the very fabric of the things they built.
- Smith continues:
For it’s true that each time I enter Pnin I feel its author controlling (via an obsessive specificity) all my reactions, just as, in Wright’s Unity Temple, one enters through a small, low side door, forced to approach the magnificence of the interior by way of a series of of awkward right angled turns.
And all of this makes me pensive and happy as I return to Fallingwater this weekend . . .