Aris Janigian is a keen observer of the Los Angeles condition. His newest book,Waiting for Lipchitz at Chateau Marmont, is a bold and colorful critique of the California Dream through the perspective of screenwriter who has gone from riches to rags. We spoke to Janigian ahead of his reading and book signing on Saturday, May 21 at the Neutra VDL House.
I appreciate Los Angeles for how it heightens your consciousness, and sharpens your wits; the sheer friction created by the endless jostling of new images, people, and artifacts is exhilarating, but it can also exhaust your inner resources, easily distract your focus, and make the kind of muscularly meditative work that novel writing requires difficult to sustain. In Fresno, on the other hand, nobody is watching you, things change at a much slower pace, and the inward turn is almost too easy to make. So, in a way, I like to think that both cities are reflected in my writing: a certain edginess and liveliness alongside a certain quiet and heartfeltness.
Architecture is a central feature of this book, the result of teaching for fifteen years or so at SCI-Arc, and pondering regularly the function of architecture. In doing this book, I felt the Chateau, what at first was a perfect place to host my narrator, could also prove to be a useful spur for thinking through some questions I had about architecture, in particular about the Heideggerian idea of “The Hearth.”
The Chateau was built on a hill in the manner of a French Country castle, a place for the Hollywood elite to quaff martinis and slumber in sumptuousness; on the other hand, The Gardens, to my mind, a morality lesson in architecture, were built underground by an Italian farmer who only dreamed, at first, to escape the merciless valley heat. They are polar opposite structures, and in the course of the novel they enter into a conversation, if not occasional shouting match, that yields some provocative conclusions, I think, about the aims and values of culture, and the meaning and practice of architecture.