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Frank Lloyd Wright (Penguin Lives) Hardcover – November 4, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Lives
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (November 4, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670033421
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670033423
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #416,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If you know any American architect, or maybe any architect, by name, it is Frank Lloyd Wright. This is just the way Wright would have wanted it. There is a story that he was a witness at a trial, and after being sworn in, he was asked his occupation. "I am the world's greatest architect," he deposed. When this raised eyebrows, he clearly loved making the explanation, "After all, I am testifying under oath." The remarkable works he produced were a product of that huge ego, as were the financial and marital crises that were present every year of his working life. It is all covered in succinct form in _Frank Lloyd Wright_ (Viking) by Ada Louise Huxtable, one of the admirable "Penguin Lives" series. Huxtable is an established architecture critic, and an obvious admirer of Wright; her book, full of praise and wonder at the works, does not skimp on the questionable morality, which did not just extend to sexual affairs but also to basic financial agreements with clients and creditors. "He never played it safe - in art or in life - and apology was not his style." Any lack of scruples is long gone; the buildings (most of them) remain.

Huxtable is generous in mentions of other books on Wright, to which she refers in the text for the reader's reference. In 1932 he published his own _Autobiography_, much of which is quoted here. Huxtable makes clear with every quotation, though, that there is almost always a second or third interpretation of events, and that he wrote not so much to give particulars of his life but to show himself in "his Olympian position as the self-described inventor of modern architecture.
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Format: Hardcover
The good news: _Frank Lloyd Wright (Penguin Lives)_, by Ada Huxtable, is a biography on Wright that you can recommend to people you know who may be interested in the architect, but who don't want to wade through the larger biographies out there. Her writing is crisp and enjoyable. She provides nice overviews of Wright's interest in and connections to the Arts and Crafts movement and transcendentalism, while also providing neat, compact and well-written descriptions of the Usonian house concept, Wright's winter home, Taliesin West (Arizona), and the Guggenheim Museum, among other movements and buildings.

The bad news: the book is marred by factual mistakes that should have been caught during the editing process. So far, I've definitively found 15 such mistakes, and there are about 5 more that I have to check on. For example: she states that three people survived the devastating 1914 fire that consumed the residential wing of Wright's Wisconsin home, Taliesin. Only two people survived the fire. Twice she assigns a statement to Frank Lloyd Wright's oldest son, Lloyd, that was actually made by another son, David. She also incorrectly assigns a statement to Frank Lloyd Wright regarding his feelings following the 1914 fire. From p. 137-38 of Huxtable's book: "Wright also remembered hearing a whip-poor-will, a sound that would always evoke a terrible sadness." That memory was instead related by Wright's nephew, Franklin Porter, to Meryle Secrest, the author of _Frank Lloyd Wright: A Biography_: "For ever after a song of the whippoorwill at night... seems infinitely sad." [p. 222, from the 1993 Harper Perennial edition of Secrest's book.] This statement, as Secrest noted in the book's endnotes, was made to her by Porter, so this was not Secrest's mistake, but Huxtable's.
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Format: Hardcover
I need a fighter, a lover of space, an agitator, a tester and a wise man. . . . I want a temple of spirit, a monument! - Hilla Rebay to Frank Lloyd Wright, 1943 - and the result was the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Anyone who has seen Fallingwater - even just in pictures - has to stand in awe of the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.

He brought to the Fallingwater, to the Gugg, and to a large number of other buildings a combination of art, function, compatiblility with its surroundings and sheer genius that remains unchallenged decades later.

Great genius in one area does not automatically translate into a great overall life. And in the case of Frank Lloyd Wright that overall life seems to have many versions. The version he preferred is the one he described in his autobiography. It is just a touch glorified. with the opening of the archives of Frank Lloyd Wright thirty years after his death other view emerge.

Ms. Huxtable has merged all the versions of his life into an eminently readable story of the life of a genius -- excellent.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author of this book, Ada Louise Huxtable, is a well known architectural historian, critic, and journalist.
This book is a compact review of modern architecture that features a superficial portrait of FLW - his life, philosophy, theories and personality - and his influence on architecture, internationally. There are about ten poorly reproduced black and white photographs that provide inadequate illustration of the FLW style and work.

This short treatment is not intended to be a serious or technical study of the great architect's work. There are other biographies and volumes for that. Huxtable handles skillfully the balance between an almost prurient coverage of the details of FLW's always erratic and sometimes tragic life with the history and analysis of the man and his work. This book is definitely a popularization of a
big subject and as such appears to be be intended for the neophyte or casual reader.
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