Frank Lloyd Write

I had the pleasure of staying on in Chicago after the ALA convention for a few days of vacationing. What a vibrant city! It’s a city to make one fall in love with architecture with fantastic older buildings standing proudly among the modern skyscrapers and enough room between the buildings to incorporate lovely green spaces and plazas.

As I was perusing the bookshelf at the Robie House, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces in the Hyde Park neighborhood near the University of Chicago, I was struck by what an interesting figure Wright was and howfrank-lloyd-wright many recent books about him, both fiction and nonfiction, might be of interest to book groups.

For the quick overview, start with Wall Street Journal architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable’s entry in the Penguin Lives series, title simply Frank Lloyd Wright. In less than 300 pages, this biography does an excellent job of celebrating Wright’s architecture, clearing up the myths surrounding his life, and explaining how his influences and experiences created a complex man.

the-fellowshipFor a more complete story, the next stop is Roger Friedland and Harold Zellman’s The Fellowship. It’s a fascinating account of a challenging man: how his genius was matched by his bullying, condescension, and mistreatment of his family. In particular, this book looks at the strange goings-on at the two Taliesin encampments in Wisconsin and Arizona, where Wright’s followers engaged in mysticism, strange sexual practices, and unusual parenting methods, among many other things. It’s a gossipy but riveting story.

More specific is Death in a Prairie House: Frank Lloyd Wright and thedeath-in-a-prairie-house Taliesin Murders. Author William R. Drennan recounts Wright’s early career, his affairs, and the creation of Taliesin. That leads to the crime of the title, when a servant set the Wisconsin house on fire and murdered seven of the residents. The strange and tragic killings would have great repercussions for Wright and the other survivors.

loving-frankIf you prefer fiction, there are two more intriguing choices. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan came first. It centers on Mamah Borthwick Cheney, the woman for whom Wright left his first wife (and one of the victims of the Taliesin murders). Through her eyes, readers see both Wright’s flaws and his charismatic gifts and talents. But Mamah is the real star of the book, a scholar, a feminist, and an irrepressible spirit.the-women

Finally, the irascible T.C. Boyle offers The Women, a story told through the eyes of a fictional Japanese apprentice. This fictional narrator, Sato Tadashi, watches Wright’s tumultuous relationships with four women, including three wives and Mamah Cheney. It’s a captivating read and a great overview of Wright’s life.

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

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