Here Kitty Kitty – AA Files (2012)

„We are, it is often said, either cat or dog people. On the strength of photographic evidence Le Corbusier seems to have belonged to the second category, with one image in particular showing a mature Corb outside his Cap-Martin Cabanon appearing to teach a compliant German Shepherd the Poème de l’angle droit – preceding by a decade Joseph Beuys’s 1970 How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare. (A rudimentary hypothesis cast here in the hope that it might germinate elsewhere – a Princeton doctoral thesis perhaps?)

Raymond Chandler, on the other hand, is decidedly of the first order, with Taki, a black 8kg long-haired Persian (an accusative smudge, a furry materialization of his Laconian Big Other) so often seen cradled in his arms. Kitty Taki had arrived at the Chandler’s Los Angeles apartment at 4616 Greenwood Place in the early 1930s. Chandler was then digesting Hammett and Hemingway, teaching himself to write and abstain from the twin indulgences of alcohol and secretaries – bouts of both had earlier cost him his executive job with an oil company. The Big Sleep, Chandler’s first novel, was published in 1939. By that time, Raymond and his wife Cissy had established an obsessive nomadic existence, moving with incredible frequency, occasionally because Taki could not settle, at other times because of financial necessity or to escape noisy neighbours, but mostly as a slow, restless dérive, exploring the grains and details of an Angelino high- and low-life that would later reveal itself in his novels and screenplays. In total there were 32 moves between 1924 and 1946, when the Chandlers finally bought 6005 Camino de la Costa, La Jolla. It was there that a by then ancient and tremendously grumpy Taki took a swipe at a visiting Somerset Maugham. It was also there that Cissy, 18 years Chandler’s senior, died.

Chandler’s biographer Judith Freeman suggests a fraught, Freudian mother-seductress relationship between Cissy, an ex-artist’s model, and her displaced, tweedy, pipe-smoking English gent. She, like Mrs. Miller, Neutra’s Palm Springs client, did her house-work naked – loyal to The Mensendiek System of Functional Exercises. Taki was not their only offspring. Chandler’s movable cast of almost 50 animal figurines was transported to each new location. Cissy’s typed roll-call of this glass and lead zoo is now in the Bodleian library – Pavlova the swan, Irwin the blue rabbit, Butterball the chicken, Glencannon the Scottie, Violet the goat, Henry the bear, Winston the lion, Farouk the camel, etc. By January 1940 the Chandlers found themselves at 1155 Arcadia Avenue, Arcadia, Los Angeles. Later that summer they moved from cabin to cabin at Big Bear Lake (where he wrote The Lady in the Lake) and then back to LA when the film rights to The High Window were sold. The script for Billy Wilder’s 1943 Double Indemnity brought financial security, but also a resurgence of his alcoholism and disappearances with Paramount secretaries. Some short while later, to meet the concurrent writing and filming schedule for The Blue Dahlia, Chandler even made a Faustian pact with the studio – the script deadlines required a creative Bourbon-fed eight-day writing haze, with six secretaries on round-the-clock shifts, and two Cadillacs to ferry the scripts and fetch the doctor (vitamin and insulin shots). At the end of this marathon he passed out on the sofa with Taki.

And what of Chandler’s hard-boiled, tough talking alter ego Philip Marlow? Did he in embryonic (or feline) form also graduate with Chandler from Dulwich College in 1906? The school had been founded in 1605 when the actor / entrepreneur Edward Alleyn bought Dulwich Manor for 5,000 Pound and renamed it Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift. At the same time Alleyn was proprietor of three brothels in Southwark as well as the Fortune Theatre, whose leading playwright was the ‚dark‘ (Elizabethan for hard-boiled) and mysteriously murdered Christopher Marlowe, known to his friends as Kit or Kitty.“

– by Peter Wilson


in: AA Files, Architectural Association, London, 2012




AA files_Peter Wilson_Here Kitty Kitty
AA files_Peter Wilson_Here Kitty Kitty
AA files_Peter Wilson_Here Kitty Kitty