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The Fellowship: The Untold Story of Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship Hardcover – August 22, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 689 pages
  • Publisher: Regan (August 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060393882
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060393885
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.6 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #584,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Few architects have gained the level of professional achievement and popular notoriety of Frank Lloyd Wright, who's as famed for his bullheadedness, abuse of underlings, condescension to his clients and his numerous wives as he is for his indisputable masterpieces of American architecture. In their biography, Friedland and Zellman skim over the typical historiography and gleefully delve into Wright's secrets and scandals, focusing on the cultish atmosphere, the mystical teachings and especially, the sexual indiscretions at Taliesin, his studio-commune where he commanded a near-messianic following. There are no major revelations, but the narrative is riveting, endowing its historical characters with all the drama of contemporary tabloid celebrities. However, heavy reliance on the dusty and probably skewed memories of interviewees produces some anecdotes that sound more like exaggerated cocktail gossip than historic fact. Occasionally, the authors use awkward psychoanalysis to account for Wright's architectural practices, such as interpreting his prairie houses' lack of basements or attics as an attempt to erase the painful memories he suffered in those spaces as a child. While the book may appeal to those more curious about the man than his achievements, readers may find the focus on all the indiscretions at Taliesin underwhelming. (Sept. 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Whatever visionary brilliance Frank Lloyd Wright possessed as an architect did not extend to his talent for structural engineering, nor, as this often-searing account shows, did he succeed at engineering human lives and souls. Wright was famously individualistic, stubborn, and egotistical. But that's only the beginning of the epic soap opera that roiled around him as Wright extended his franchise to two cultlike, communal encampments, in Wisconsin and Arizona, known as Taliesin (Welsh for "shining brow"). Aspiring architects, designers, and cultural misfits flocked to Wright, apprenticing more often as manual laborers than as draftsmen or creators. Wright's imperious style was matched by that of his third wife, Olgivanna, a disciple of George Gurdjieff, the Russian mystic whose sense of the spiritual content of cosmic forces echoed Wright's belief in the transformative power of nature. Friedland and Zellman's long but absorbing book paints an uneasy history of Taliesin, involving problematic sexual relationships, tax collectors, prima donnas, draft resisters, dancing angels, long-suffering clients, parental malpractice, and, not least, in its role as training ground, an astounding record of failure. Steve Paul
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

The Fellowship is a truly fascinating book.
This is one of the most engaging non-fiction books I've read in the last few years.
Mark K. Mcdonough
The book is very entertaining and could not put it down!

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Wayne Barker on August 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
For years I have been devoted to Frank Lloyd Wright, seeking out his buildings and reading all I could get my hands on about his life and work. His one-of-a-kind genus created a body of work which has lost none of its power. For me that power holds a nostalgia, too, for an era we will never see again, a time when cheap labor and an architect's take-no-prisoners charisma could get astonishing structures erected. Those elegant Usonian homes from the 1940s do make me pine for an era of cheaper materials and fewer code restrictions. One can read the histories of his structures and grow dewey-eyed: To think there was a time when one could build a house for $5,000, and have that house be an exquisite cedar and brick jewel box, sited magnifiecntly on a bluff with a glorious view of the valley below -- in very short order proclaimed a masterpiece -- !

But so much of the canonical Wright literature is hagiography. This book is anything but. Its first pages, for instance, rip away the veil of obscurity regarding Iovanna, Wright's & Olgivanna's child, who was still living when then the authors began the project. Until I read these passages, it had not occured to me that the woman was mysteriously absent from what I read about Wright and the Fellowship. The authors tracked her down to a mental institution. There is clearly a tragedy surrounding her, one that the keeper's of Wright's legacy have ... hidden? avoided? dismissed?

She seems lucid enough when the authors talk to her.

It is sad of course to have one's heroes diminshed. Wright does not come off well in this book. His and Olgivanna's antagonistic relationship is fully exposed. And she in particular seems an absolute horror.
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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Mark K. Mcdonough VINE VOICE on February 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the most engaging non-fiction books I've read in the last few years. The reviewer who said that it combines the joys of People magazine and scholarship definitely has a point. The story of Wright's fellowship is wonderfully peculiar, amazing, and sad. I came to the book with some knowledge of Wright (I've been to both Taliesins and have visited a number of his other buildings) and a strong interest in 20th century American cultural history. But Wright's always been a puzzle. He was a great genius, but his roofs leaked. His architecture (to me, anyway) is infinitely more appealing than that of the International Style, but somehow became an also-ran. No strong proteges ever emerged to carry the torch.

This book certainly provides many clues to the puzzles of Wright. For one thing, it places him in the context of his culture. For example, I had no idea of the strong influence the occultist Georgi Gurdjieff had on Wright and especially his wife Olgivanna. And while I'd always heard that Taliesen was something of a "cult of personality," well, it was more than that -- it was pretty much a cult in the literal sense. Wright and his family occupied an almost godly position, and the "apprentices" slaved away uncompensated and bent to the Wright's every whim or were asked to leave.

One negative review complained that contradictory descriptons of Wright's behavior indicate that that the book is full of falsehoods. I take the opposite tack. I think the book draws a very believable portrait of a contradictory man. Wright is shown as a homophobe who nonetheless tolerated and treasured numerous homosexuals in his inner circle and an anti-Semite with many Jewish followers.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Curren VINE VOICE on January 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have always been fascinated by FLW's architecture, my favorite styles being the Prairie and Usonian styles. When you read which and how many buildings he had built per year, it hits you as being odd that he built very little during the roaring 20's? How did he survive during the depression? How could he afford to build such elaborate estates on architecture fees?

The Fellowship was the answer. I was amazed to discover from this book that he created a school and named it the FLW Fellowship. Applicants paid yearly tuitions to work there! In the beginning the education was gained by learning how to build Taliesin and doing such things as kitchen details and farming. It was gratifying to know that only rich kids could afford to attend the FLW Fellowship since no one except the rich during the depression had any money left. Rich kids paying to farm and do manual labor for FLW. Ya gotta love that.

During the early phase of the Fellowship, Wes Peters (apprentice) and Svetlana Wright (FLW's adopted daughter) left Taliesin. "Svetlana wrote Wes" about Olgivanna (FLW's 3rd wife, Svet's mother), "When I read her words I feel that a witch sits behind them! And I feel all sort of creepy and unclean!" That is exactly how I felt as I experienced this book............UNCLEAN.

FLW was a person of extreme contrast or shall I say a person that lived a bi-polar existence. He attracted the like into his Fellowship. I always wondered why his "organic architecture" never spread thru America. His ego would not allow it. He simply could not allow the possibility that someone else could progress his work to an even higher level of genius than his ego. His ego would not allow his genius to be "shared". This is the real FLW tragedy.
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