From Publishers Weekly
The fascinating life and work of the great American architect gets a stimulating, well-balanced treatment in this installment of the Penguin Lives series. Huxtable, the Wall Street Journal architecture critic, pairs a critique of Wright's architecture with an engaging narrative of his scandalous private life, including his abandonment of his first family, the murder of a mistress and her children by a deranged servant, and other tempestuous relationships with artistic, high-strung women. She traces his achievements to his upbringing in a family of Unitarians, where, she contends, he was steeped in the Emersonian transcendentalism that led him to infuse the austere functionalism of high-modernist architecture with romantic spirituality and nature worship. He also acquired a self-righteous rectitude with which he faced down dubious clients, the architectural establishment, and the creditors who would bedevil him throughout a free-spending but impecunious life. Huxtable's well-researched account corrects Wright's mythologizing of his life, but she generally accepts his excuses that his misbehavior and megalomania were necessary to his artistic self-realization. She is clearly a big fan: her reviews of Wright's major buildings are warmly appreciative to adulatory; she considers his revolutionary redesigns of the family home to be models of livability, and his later hypermodern works to be almost miraculous prefigurations of today's computer-assisted geometries. With its dollop of sizzle, this fluently written biography will provoke renewed interest in Wright's architecture among general readers.
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As readers of Huxtable's Pulitzer Prize-winning criticism know, she is a discerning writer fluent in architectural thought and practice. She now offers a fresh perspective on Frank Lloyd Wright's much scrutinized yet still surprising life. Comfortable with ambiguity and complexity, Huxtable not only parses both key events and overlooked subtleties, she also wrestles with the prickly questions about character and creativity raised by the contrast between Wright's self-serving, tyrannical behavior and his enormously influential achievements. Fascinated by Wright's supreme confidence, fiscal recklessness, con-man charm, and phoenixlike resurrections, Huxtable tells the still shocking stories of his abandonment of his first wife and six children; the gruesome murders at Taliesin, his Wisconsin estate; and the conflicts with his vindictive second wife that landed him in jail and left him homeless. But Huxtable is no less compelling in her chronicling of Wright's ever-evolving vision of "organic architecture," which gave rise to his Prairie house; the Usonian house, the prototype for the ranch house; and many other innovations, thus renewing appreciation for a wildly unconventional but essential architect. Donna Seaman
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