Piecing Together Los Angeles: An Esther McCoy Reader

East of Borneo

Regular price $35.00

“No one can write about architecture in California without acknowledging her as the mother of us all.” —Reyner Banham

The debut book title from East of Borneo, an online magazine that is a collaborative reexamination of West Coast art and its history. This volume is the first collection of writings by Esther McCoy (1904-1989), a keen literary stylist 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. During the 1920s, she pursued her vocation as a writer and apprenticed with novelist Theodore Dreiser. In 1932, McCoy moved to Los Angeles where she wrote for literary journals, popular magazines and progressive broadsheets. Her short stories were awarded numerous prizes, featured in publications ranging from Harper’s Bazaar to The California Quarterly, and adapted for radio and television. After completing a wartime stint as an engineering draftsman at Douglas Aircraft, McCoy went to work as an architectural draftsman for R. M. Schindler. By 1945, her attentive writing had turned significantly to architecture and the design-driven optimism of postwar Los Angeles. Her essays appeared regularly in the Los Angeles Times, Arts & Architecture, Zodiac, Progressive Architecture, and Architectural Forum, and her 1960 book Five California Architects has long been acknowledged as an indispensable classic.

From fiction for The New Yorker to her seminal essays on new architectural forms, McCoy articulated the concepts and vibrant character of West Coast modernism as it was being created. This essential volume includes out-of-print essays, articles, and short stories, as well as hitherto unpublished lectures, correspondence, and memoirs that together illuminate the breadth and complexity of McCoy’s groundbreaking work.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.