Where'd You Go Bernadette
Maria Semple
Contributed by Ariane Heyne
Chapter 2
Summary

The chapter features a press release that was made on Saturday, December 11th. The press release celebrates the anniversary of Twenty Mile House that belonged to Bernadette, the same house that had won her the McArthur Genius grant. The Turner Foundation calls for a contest to build a new house that resembles the Twenty Mile House which has since been demolished. People interested in the contest are required to “submit plans for a 3-bedroom, 4,200-sf single-family residence at 6528 Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles” (Semple 20). The press release explains that there are photos of the property as well as indicating that Bernadette is alleged to have destroyed all the plans of the house. Therefore, contestants will need to rely on their creativity and any previous perceptions they had of the house.

The chapter also features a letter from Bernadette to Paul Jellinek, a professor of architecture at the University of Southern California, and a professional friend of Bernadette’s. She writes to enquire after his wellbeing, feeling that he misses her a lot and aiming to show him that she has concerns about her life, acknowledging the extent to which the Internet has advanced — something that has made Seattle the tech capital of the world. She brings up information about technology as she knows Paul will be intrigued by it, again talking about topics outside of her comfort zone, which she knows it is important to him.

Analysis

This chapter shows the great influence that Bernadette had on her community in Los Angeles. Although she is no longer there, her body of work is still fresh in people’s minds, and those people are willing to relive and recreate her memories and ideas. For instance, the decision by the Turner Foundation to recreate the Twenty Mile House is a show of the general interest that people in her community had in bringing back her memories and restoring her project. As a former award-winning architect, upcoming professionals in the area were keen to follow in her footsteps. The chapter also shows the great interest that Bernadette still has in her old community; although she chose to move away from it, she still thinks about the people whom she left behind. For instance, she was keen to write a letter to Paul in a bid to show him how she still cares about him. The letter also shows that she loves the profession that brought her a lot of success. Therefore, although Bernadette was able to run away from her home in Los Angeles, she finds it hard to ignore the memories that the place holds.

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