Sunday, November 27, 2011

Reggie Out & About: Hermes Mallea Book Signing

Last night Boy and I had the pleasure of attending a book signing party held in honor of Hermes Mallea, in celebration of the publication of his beautifully written and lavishly illustrated Great Houses of Havana: A Century of Cuban Style, published by the Monacelli Press.

The announcement in the window of Rural Residence

The book signing was held at Rural Residence, a treasure trove of a store in Hudson, New York, which was the subject of a post that I did last year at this time.  Timothy Dunleavy, the owner/proprietor of Rural Residence, hosts book signings there from time to time, most recently for Hermes Mallea's Great Houses of Havana.  Another party for the book was recently held in New York at the 1st Dibs Gallery, and was featured on New York Social Diary, where yours truly is a sometime contributor.

Stacks of books, ready for signing

The book signing party at Rural Residence for Mr. Mallea was a great success, full of friends and well-wishers, and so well attended that at times the crowd spilled out onto the sidewalk in front of the store.  People were buying books by the armload, and the author spent much of the evening sitting at a table busily writing inscriptions, hardly able to circulate around the room given the demands for his autograph.  Fortunately he didn't need to leave his chair as all were there to see him, one by one.

The author inscribing our copy of his book

Hermes Mallea and his partner in business and life, Carey Maloney, have a weekend house in the area and we see them out and about at the larger parties in the county.  They are charming and pleasant company.

I spent several hours this morning reading through and looking at the photographs in Great Houses of Havana.  I am impressed.  It stands head and shoulders above many of the decorating and architecture coffee table books that have been rolling off the printing presses in recent years.  It is a scholarly, well-researched, and beautifully illustrated tour of residential and civic architecture built in Havana in the one hundred years leading up to the Cuban Revolution.  Mr. Mallea writes articulately, thoughtfully, and knowledgeably (he is, by profession, an architect and a partner in M (Group), a design firm based in New York).

The party in full swing

Great Houses of Havana contains a lot of information, both written and visual, about the history of Cuban architecture, the island's pre-revolutionary culture, and the colorful and visionary people who built and inhabited the buildings showcased in the book.  Great Houses of Havana is richly illustrated with many contemporary and vintage photographs of the buildings and their interiors, and their occupants (including one of Mrs. Earl T. Smith, the wife of the former U.S. Ambassador to Cuba, and who was the subject of an earlier post of mine).  Many of the once-private houses featured in the book are today public museums or serve as ambassadorial residences, and appear to be well cared for—in some cases exceptionally so.

Dear Reader, I encourage you to consider getting a copy of Great Houses of Havana, as it is a worthy addition to the library of anyone interested in architecture, design, cultural history, and the fascinating island of Cuba.  That would certainly describe me, and I suspect it would also be an apt description of many of the people who read this blog.

You can learn more about the book and its author at

Please note: Reggie has received nothing in return for making this recommendation, nor does he expect to. He is recommending Great Houses of Havana solely for its merits and for the pleasure of his readers, which is why he writes this blog in the first place.

Photographs by Boy Fenwick


  1. Thank you Reggie for cementing my thoughts on what I want most for Christmas. Mr. Mallea's Great Houses of Cuba !!! I was a fortunate little boy travelling with my parents to Havanna for house parties and golfing at the HCC before the revolution. The homes and the club were magnificent architectural gems, and I can't wait to peruse and study the book. I hope photographs of the casino at the HCC are included. My Dad sneaked me in there once or twice, and my eyes were wide open in amazement!

  2. Reggie this book by Mr. Mallea sounds wonderful. Thank you for the recommendation. Events like this book signing are always so memorable!


    Art by Karena

  3. Am ordering several copies for Christmas gifts. Thanks for the tip.


  4. I'll have to check out this book when I get back to Ohio. I often look at 19th-century photographs of houses, and there are many exceptional ones that were located in Cuba, although they bear little resemblance to mainstream United States houses of the period. Now I am anxious to see how those (or related houses) are faring today. The quality of old Havana houses comes as no surprise considering the city's close relationship with the arts over the centuries.
    --Road to Parnassus

  5. Definitely adding this to my Christmas list... thank you for the recommendation! And I definitely want to check out Rural Residence the next time I'm up that way

  6. Thank you so much for the recommendation, having been entertained by the Cuban government over 30 years ago and staying in a few of the mansions they kept for visiting government types I have always been fascinated with the city, especially some of the mid century architecture that was caught in time. The book should be a treat!

  7. Thanks for this. I've had an interest in this very subject for a number of years.

  8. Book signings are so exciting...this one looks so very classy. (It was a thrill to sign a few of my own books this year.)

  9. Definitely goes on my wish list. Thank you for sharing about the book, Reggie. I love Cuba, spent about a month there in the 1990 and traveled from Havana to Santiago de Cuba and then flew back to Varadero for a few days at a beach resort. Wonderful time!!!!!!! Havana was sooooooo beautiful and Cuban people ... they are wonderful, friendly, happy even at that time with everything so scarce. Hoping of visiting Cuba in the near future.

  10. Nice book.
    And funny dedication in Spanish.
    For us spaniards, Cuba is not far in the History. Havana and Barcelona sometimes seem quite similar, in architectural terms.
    Believe that XIX century people living in the coast villages travelled more easily to Havana than to Madrid!
    That's why nowadays it turns out to be lamentable the way it remains.

  11. From what I have seen, it looks like a fabulous book!

  12. I have ordered the book and can't wait to receive it. As we are on our way to Cuba with the ICA in Jan it has come at just the right time


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