The talk at the Albany Public Library was Tuesday, the 21st at 12:15 pm (midday). There was a nice crowd several of whom had been at the library a few weeks ago when Pat McGeown of Albany Planned Parenthood had reviewed “Loving Frank”, so they already knew that part of the story, but were interested in discussing the man’s artistic and creative genius, as well as the other women in his life. One man brought the June issue of Smithsonian which has an extensive article about the Guggenheim which is 50 years old this year and others had personal stories about meeting Wright and/or visiting his buildings. The people at the Albany Public Library’s book reviews are always interesting and there’s lots of audience participation at these Tuesday noon events.
As I indicated, if you disliked the characters but loved the writing in “Loving Frank”, there are more characters in “The Women”, including the narrator, a student from Japan who interned at Taliesin in the 1930′s and ostensibly is writing this book in 1979, reliving his own experiences as well as telling the stories of Olgavanna and Miriam, wives #3 and #2, respectively, and Kitty and Mamah, the women in “Loving Frank”. Miriam is particularly unpleasant and unsympathetic although I must say that she did have her moment in the sun when they stayed in Japan while the Imperial Hotel was being built. Olgivanna is the only one of the women who is considerably younger than Wright and the book only covers the first few of her years with Wright, so she comes across as particularly naive and weak. In fact, she outlived Wright and contributed significantly to the management of Taliesin over the years.
Because “The Women” covers the highlights of Wright’s life from 1909 through 1930 and his relationships with four different women, the details of his life with Mamah are far less complete than they are in “Loving Frank”. Boyle makes up for this with writing and descriptions to evoke an atmosphere and draw the reader so completely into the characters’ lives that time is suspended while you lose yourself at Taliesin with Wright, his family and his apprentices. In addition, the author, Boyle and his subject, Wright have some interesting things in common: both changed their middle names, both are egomaniacs and Boyle lives in the first Frank Lloyd Wright house that was built in California.
In preparing for this I came across one more book about Wright, “Many Masks” by Brendan Gill, long time editor of the New Yorker. This book was originally published in the 1980′s and was reissued in 1998. Apparently it is still in print. For readers who want to know more about Wright himself, this book will complete the story. It contains all the facts about these four women (and there are even more) as well as pictures and information about many of his buildings. Of course there are countless books about his buildings, you could fill your entire library, but I do recommend these three books for anyone who is interested in getting a well-rounded picture of Frank Lloyd Wright.