Frank Lloyd Wright: A Biography
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2005
Wright the man is chronicled here, in one of the two best biographies of the architectural superstar. One would also want to read Brendan Gill's "Many Masks" as a companion to Ms Secrest's treatment of F Ll W - just to get the harmonizing flavors of opinion.

Ms Secrest does magnificent research and shares it in a narrative that flows easily and keeps one's attention. Her information about Wright's family tree, as well as the family background of his wives and Mrs. Cheney, is more thoroughly presented than I have seen elsewhere.

One must not expect a thorough critique of Wright's buildings here -- there are too many works to be considered and there are many other resources, old and new, for such explorations. "In the Nature of Materials" leaps to mind. However, this book does flesh out the man and in some ways dispels some of the outlandish tales and outright fabrications about his life, toward which Wright was oft inclined.

It should be noted that Secrest is one of the Wright biographers who mistakenly limit the contributions of Isabel Roberts, who was a draughtsman/architect in her own right. She defines Roberts' roll simply as: "Isabel Roberts, secretary ". She cannot be faulted too much, having swallowed the red herring presented by Frank Lloyd Wright himself when writing about the Oak Park "...studio adjoining my home, where the work I had then to do enabled me to take in several draughtsmen and a faithful secretary, Isabel Roberts..." In future, Wright biographers would be wise to consult research done by John A. Dalles presented in his article, "The Pathbreaking Legacy of Ryan and Roberts", in "Reflections", the journal of the Historical Society of Central Florida, Summer 2009; pages 8 and 9.

You may wish to read Wright's disingenuous "An Autobiography" (1943) as well as some of the family books - "The Valley of the God-Almighty Joneses: Reminiscences of Frank Lloyd Wright's Sister, by Maginel Wright Barney, 1986, and his son, John Lloyd Wright's "My Father Who Is On Earth", G P Putnam Sons, NY, 1946. But consider this a mostly reliable guide to Mr. Wright's long and theatrical life.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 7, 2003
This is an excellent book by Meryle Secrest on Frank Lloyd Wright. It traces the career of America's foremost builder from his days in Chicago as a resident in fashionable Oak Park to his final days on the Arizona desert. Ms. Secrest does not specialize in architecture, but this appears to be an asset. While there are plenty of books that can go on (and on and on) about building techniques, this is intended for the lay person who is interested in Frank Lloyd Wright in general terms. This book provides an excellent introduction to both the man and his work.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 1998
Beautifully researched, well-crafted, highly readable biography of Frank Lloyd Wright. Ms. Secrest understands her subject and his work and presents both to us with clarity and empathy. Many photographs add to the enjoyment of the reader. Unconditionally recommended.
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2001
Secrest's "biography" focuses exclusively on the personal life of Wright, and to that end it seems fairly complete. Secrest attempts to explain Wright's inflated sense of self, his drive to succeed and his willingess to use others as means to his ends by reflecting on his Welsh background, his family's history in Wisconsin and his relationships with his immediate family, particularly his mother. My complaint is that Secrest does not carry this analysis over to his architecture - most of his works receive a paragraph or less. I was hoping for a biography of Wright that placed his work in an socio-historical framework as well as accounting for his personality. Secrest briefly mentions how Wright bristled at being called a pre-modernist and how much of a romanticist he was, but she only mentions this to elucidate Wright's personal interactions with others. If you're looking for more info that places Wright's work in a historical or theoretical framework, look somewhere else.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2000
The above review doesn't take into account that Wright himself in his own autobiography stretches the truth on several occaisons for reasons known only to him. As we all know, Wright has said he intended to be the greatest architect of all time. If his own voice were heard, it would undoubtedly reinforce that fact. It is better to have an outside view, or a recounting of events by someone other than wright that happened to be present at that time. Anyone who has read his autobiography (or has any knowledge of history, for that matter) knows Wright was a notorious self-promoter and a grain of salt should be taken to anything he said. Wright is my favorite architect and a man of un paralleled geinus, so no- I'm not biased.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 1998
This biography is chock full of FLLW information and reveals the details of Wright's most outrageous life events, but it lacks a common story or thread. The book is a re-telling of Wright's life through primary sources and interviews with the many people who worked and lived with him. The major drawback of the book is I never heard the voice of Wright himself come through the pages.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2009
FLW is certainly the great man of architecture in the USA,
but as a human being he had few redeeming qualities. He
charmed his way through life, unable to ever live within
his means. Who needs two grand pianos? How many buddas
do you have to have? He lived life on a grand scale because
he acquainted it with a neccesity for a happy life. He was a
driven man. I think Meryle Secrest recounts all this and more
in her wonderful biography.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2014
The best Bio on Frank I have read. (Gill's Many Masks comes in second because, in my view, it presents a less convincing explanation of his character.)
What is exceptional and the result of new research by Secrest is the family history, especially his Welsh ancestry.
The Author presents a credible explanation of Frank's personality by identifying similar traits in the family.
As an architect I find it refreshing to read an account of Wright void of architectural critique; one which
focuses on his life history, friends and associates.
I still find it hard to form a clear picture of his personality despite the long and consistent accounts by the various authors.
In archival film he comes across as a more moderate and humble human being.
However if it is humble you want stay away from his autobiography.

If it is humble you want then don't read the autobiography.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2005
Biography is very thorough, but the writing is somewhat difficult to read due to organization.
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on April 23, 2014
This is the story of a man who produced a group of the most significant buildings in the twentieth century, Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect.

It is not the complete story of who he was and what he did but Meryle Secrest has opened the records and begun revealing, in a very easy ro read biography, the people, events and talents that allowed him to play the part of a great architect who was an artist, builder, author, lover of music, beauty and women.

With all the theatricality of marital and financial troubles in the life that's presented by Secrest it's not surprising that his grand daughter Anne Baxter received an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Laurels to Meryle Secrest for this personal history of Frank Lloyd Wright's life. May those who follow her do as well in adding to our knowledge of this great person.
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