Things to Read - Books About Frank Lloyd Wright


As I knew we would be visiting Fallingwater, I decided to read Nancy Horan's historical fiction novel - Loving Frank: A Novel. The book tells the story of Wright's long-lasting affair with Mamah Cheney, whom Wright met while designing a house for her and her husband. Wright eventually abandoned his wife and SIX children to tour Europe with Cheney, who also left behind her TWO children and husband. For reasons that I don't really understand but still somewhat admire, Horan really tries to make the reader empathize with Cheney. So the whole book is somewhat of a love-against-the odds story, especially since the affair was HEAVILY criticized by the media of the day (according to Horan, Wright and Cheney's international exploits continually made front-page news in Chicago; apparently at the turn of the century abandoning one's family wasn't "cool"). The book is a decent read, but I couldn't buy into Horan's vision. I found Cheney a little too whiny and their romance a little too sappy. Maybe I've lead a sheltered life but usually falling in love is more nuanced than sitting around spewing cheesy sentiments about hopes and dreams (or maybe I'm wrong and life really is just like The Bachelor). Further, in 1901 it had to take some major guts and a huge case of I-don't-care-what-people-think to just pack up and leave for Europe with a married man, but I found Horan's Cheney to be so WORRIED all the time. It's not a bad book, but I wasn't convinced.

Anyways, about a week after I finished Loving Frank I was perusing the used books in Goodwill (wow, I'm a dork) and stumbled across a $50 cent copy of Kate Chopin's classic novel The Awakening, which now occupies a place on my list of best books ever written. The Awakening's protagonist, Edna Pontellier, is a wife and mother who simply and gradually falls in love with another man. At times I loved Edna and at times I found her selfishness upsetting. But either way, I somehow believed in her existence. Ending the novel felt like losing a friend. I wanted to call Edna and discuss life, go out for coffee or something. Plus the love story seemed so real and was so beautifully told - how a friendship can just slowly, gradually turn into something more, even when neither participant wants it to. Anyways, in many ways I couldn't help but think that this was really Mamah Cheney's story. Definitely worth reading.

Despite the fact that I didn't love Loving Frank: A Novel, the book succeeded in piquing my curiosity in Frank Lloyd Wright, who was quite the eccentric. So I picked up a copy of his biography - Frank Lloyd Wright: A Life (Penguin Lives) by Ada Lousie Huxtable, which may be one of the worst books I've ever read. Huxtable manages to take one of the most famous & self-absorbed figures of the last 100 years and make him as BORING as possible. The book reads like a 251 page encyclopedia. Huxtable should be banned from ever writing again (wow, I read one bad book and I turn into a communist). Huxtable's biography of Wright has whole paragraphs that manage to say nothing, full of cliched empty statements like "[f]or the artist, the focus on self, on personal development and artistic destiny, is a drive that excludes everything else. Normally endowed people living normal lives see it as inexcusable selfishness. Wright possessed more than the usual quota of talent and narcissism. . . " This goes on and on. And on. Nevertheless, even Huxtable couldn't totally hide the fact that Wright lead quite a fascinating life (I hope I'm not giving anything away by saying that Wright experienced some BIG tragedy and some big LOVE). In retrospect, I really wish I would have read T.C. Boyle's The Women: A Novel another Wright-based historical fiction novel. Unlike Horan, Boyle chose to write about Wright's four famous love affairs (Cheney was only number two). Maybe I'll pick it up one day, but for now I think Wright and I need some time apart.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...