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« Elsewhere | Main | Launchcast »

May 11, 2005

Nikos Reactions

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Say what you will about 2Blowhards favorite, the architectural theorist Nikos Salingaros. But you can't say he leaves people cold.

Cases in point:

  • City planner, photographer and all-around civilized guy Konrad Perlman reviews Nikos' current book "Anti-Architecture and Deconstruction." Verdict: thumbs emphatically up. Nikos' book is "the clearest description of the state of architecture and the destructiveness of the Decon movement." It's a lovely and appreciative review, by the way -- Konrad writes from deep familiarity with culture and pleasure, as well as mucho feet-on-the-ground professional experience.

  • Meanwhile, San Francisco's well-known bookstore William Stout Architectural Books has seen fit, in their online catalog, to describe Nikos' book this way: "This book offers an hysterical right-wing analysis of post-modern architecture, warning us of the existence of the "Derrida virus", and crowning Christopher Alexander the new Albert Speer." Evidently determined to discourage sales, William Stout has hiked the book's price by eight dollars.

I'm going to let down my usual mask of bemusement in order to ask a sincere question. Do you suppose that it has occurred to whoever wrote William Stout's catalog copy that he/she is calling Nikos, Christopher Alexander, and those who find their work enlightening and helpful not just "hysterical right-wingers" but fascists?

In any case: What's not to love and admire in the level-headed and humane rationality of the architectural left, eh?

You can buy Nikos's wonderful -- and controversial -- book here (and for eight dollars less than at William Stout's). You can access 2Blowhards' mindblowing, five-part q&a with Nikos here. Nikos' own site, where you can enjoy a ton of brain-expanding freebies, is here.

Best,

Michael

UPDATE: Many thanks to David Sucher, who had the inspired idea of finding out what the facade of William Stout Architectural Books looks like. The very Nikos Salingaros-friendly answer:

stout bookstore2.jpg
posted by Michael at May 11, 2005




Comments

"In any case: What's not to love and admire in the level-headed and humane rationality of the architectural left, eh?"

Not to mention their originality. I mean, hey, who ever compares his enemies to Nazis? Inconceivable!*

Couldn't we have a "bloodthirsty Aztec", or a "Robert Mugabe", or even an "Idi Amin" sometimes? Enough with the Nazis, we hate those guys. It's not just offensive, it's banal.

*Cue Princess Bride quote.

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on May 11, 2005 12:52 PM



"...crowning Christopher Alexander the new Albert Speer."

It simply isn't an intelligent remark no matter what your politics. Weird.

Posted by: David Sucher on May 11, 2005 1:24 PM



"...crowning Christopher Alexander the new Albert Speer."

A sense of proportion is vital when you're an architect. Nice to see the William Stout cataloguer has got one. (This might go some way to explaining the look of post-modernist buildings.)

Posted by: J.Cassian on May 11, 2005 5:55 PM



As to the whole issue of traditionalism/modernism, Nikos' book, etc etc the William Stout Books position might "Don't do as we say but as we do."

They'll sell you a book on minimalist trash but they prefer to live in something human.

Posted by: David Sucher on May 12, 2005 11:44 AM



Wow. I'll just have to remember I'm a right-wing Nazi. Pity, I always fancied myself a dorsal-fin bloodthirsty Aztec.

This is very poor marketing. While this blurb introduced me to the bookstore, it simultaneously ensured the store will never, ever receive a penny of my sizable obscure architectural publication budget. I would fire a salesperson for doing something so stupid.

Furthermore, it's entirely the wrong pitch to their intended audience. After reading this blurb, a PoMo is as likely to spend their money on this book as an athiest is likely to purchase a Bible. Better:

This great book by a mathematician enlightens us all as to why post-modern architecture is evil. Here's your prescription to cure that bad case of the Derrida virus.

The nihilistic ironists get their fix of tongue-in-cheek without completely repulsing the progressive humanists.

Posted by: Rob Asumendi on May 12, 2005 2:03 PM



I've only been in a few specialized architectural book stores, but I will grant you that every one of them had more than their share of attitude.

Even if their politics weren't obnoxious, that much concentrated odor of sanctity tends to drive me away.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on May 12, 2005 8:33 PM



I have been to the book store in question and enjoyed it, so I e-mailed them expressing concern about their unfair summary and poor taste (particularly re: the Nazi analogy), and they have responded saying they will change the description shortly.

Posted by: DCA on May 12, 2005 9:29 PM



DCA,

Since you have such pull there maybe you can please ask them when they will carry City Comforts? They used to carry it; the manager Mr. Silver loved it, praised it this way: "City Comforts doesn't tell, it shows."

But then I asked to be paid for the books they'd sold and now they are boycotting it.

Posted by: David Sucher on May 13, 2005 10:25 AM



William Stout Architectural Books has removed the summary of Salingaros's book from its website: http://www.stoutbooks.com/cgi-bin/stoutbooks.cgi/65329.html
They continue to charge $31 for the book, however.

Also, Mr. Sucher, if they wouldn't pay you in the past, do you have new reason to believe they'll pay you in the future? (I think your blog is excellent, by the way. Perhaps you could persuade them instead to establish a blogroll with you and 2blowhards at the top.)

Posted by: DCA on May 13, 2005 10:00 PM



Thanks, DCA.

And the answer to your very logical qusetion is to follow the advice offred me by another excellent architectural bookseller -- Peter Miller.

Before I published the first edition of the book -- 1994 -- I sat down with Peter to get his advice on the business side of City Comforts. Besides explaining that bookselling was a hopeless, dirty business he kindly suggested that I sell to bookstores on the following terms:
50% discount (40% is typical),
publisher pays shipping,
no returns,
pre-paid.
The bookstore gets a better price and the publisher has no collectibles (even more importantly, no mental annoyance from slow-pays) and no offsets against sales.

This advice was very sound. So if Stout comes back from the dark side (Miller, too, in fact) that's what I would do.

Posted by: David Sucher on May 14, 2005 9:57 AM



Thank you for your lively and thought provoking discussion regarding our online description of Nikos Saligaros' "Anti-Architecture and Deconstruction." It should be noted, however, that in response to a few complaints, we have since removed the description.

Regarding the cost of the book, we follow standard bookseller's terms, basing the retail price of a book on what the publisher charges us for it. If we get books from European publishers, such as Umbau Verlag, we also must take the exchange rate into account. This is the only way that small bookstores such as ourselves can stay in business, and continue to provide books which larger and less specialized retailers do not carry, as well as a physical place to browse.

- William Stout Architectural Books

Posted by: William Stout Architectural Books on May 18, 2005 7:19 PM






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