About this Newsletter
“Exterior openings required for light and air shall be permitted in the Arizona room.” —Homeowners Building Permit Manual, City of Chandler, AZ
According to most AZ city building codes, an Arizona room is a covered patio separated from the outdoors by ventilated screens (not windows; it must be “breathable”) and from the indoors by an exterior wall. By law it is a “non-habitable” space. In practice, though, it was the only habitable space in a southwestern home during the long summer months before the advent of a/c. It is therefore neither totally indoors nor outdoors, private nor public, necessary nor extraneous.
Let me put some flesh on the metaphor. In my indoor life I’m a graduate student at New York University, where I study modernist literature and postcolonial Ireland. In my outdoor life I’m a third grade teacher in Brooklyn, where I (usually) don’t teach modernist literature or postcolonial Ireland.
In between, I’m here. This newsletter functions as both a respite from and rendezvous with both worlds. Like many grad students, I have noticed (with no small degree of terror) how the constraints of academic style have begun to affect my ability to write accessibly, constraints that are not necessitated by the difficulty of the material but simply by the taste of the field. As a twenty-something, I’ve also felt that the extravagance of pursuing an m.a. can only be dignified by consistently sharing what you learn with the people around you.
I’ve been trying to solve the indoor problem privately for about two years, in a folder on my desktop titled “Practice,” while solutions to the outdoor problem have been mostly confined to one-on-one conversations. The Arizona Room is a better place for resolving both. I’ll air my practice in public and, with any luck, start a new conversation with you.
The type of writing you can expect to find here will follow Jonathan Swift’s dictum in The Tale of the Tub:
“I have sometimes heard of an Iliad in a Nut-shell; but it hath been my Fortune to have much oftener seen a Nutshell in an Iliad.”
No reviews, links, or (God forbid) lists. Rather, nutshells made into epics—never the other way around.
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This is not a Substack about Arizona.
But it’s also not not a Substack about Arizona…
Arizona Highways, November 1944