Synopses & Reviews
An iconic figure in American culture, Frank Lloyd Wright is famous throughout the world. Although his achievements in architecture are stunning, it is his importance in cultural history, Jerome Klinkowitz contends, that makes Wright the object of such avid and continuing interest. Designing more than just buildings, Wright offered a concept for living that still influences how people conduct their lives today. Wright's innovations in architecture have been widely studied, but this is the most comprehensive and sustained treatment of his thought.
Klinkowitz presents a critical biography driven by the architect's own work and intellectual growth, focusing on the evolution of Wright's thinking and writings from his first public addresses in 1894 to his last essay in 1959. Did Wright reject all of Victorian thinking about the home, or do his attentions to a minister's sermon on "the house beautiful" deserve closer attention? Was Wright echoing the Transcendentalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson, or was he more in step with the philosophy of William James? Did he reject the Arts and Crafts movement, or repurpose its beliefs and practices for new times? And, what can be said of his deep dissatisfaction with architectural concepts of his own era, the dominant modernism that became the International Style? Even the strongest advocates of Frank Lloyd Wright have been puzzled by his objections to so much that characterized the twentieth century, from ideas for building to styles of living.
In Frank Lloyd Wright and His Manner of Thought, Klinkowitz, a widely published authority on twentieth-century literature, thought, and culture, examines the full extent of Wright's books, essays, and lectures to show how he emerged from the nineteenth century to anticipate the twenty-first.
"As Klinkowitz shows, Wrights thought is deeply visionary. It deploys its challenging truths against an ossified present, in the name of a spatial philosophy critical of both pre-modern ornamentalism and of modernisms standardization and keen, instead, on the values of fluidity, eco-architectural, organic integration, cross-culturally allusive and decentered design, inside-outside unity, and democratic geometry."Christian Moraru, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
"Death in a Prairie House is a compelling argument in support of the theory that the Taliesin tragedy profoundly affected not only the future lives of those directly involved (not the least of whom was considered to be the most influential and gifted architect of the time), but likely, the whole course and development of modern architecture."—Craig Jacobsen, Taliesin Preservation, Inc.
"The thoroughness of Drennan's research combined with the clarity of his logic and writing style paints a complete, colorful picture of the tragedy. He painstakingly addresses all of the questions and theories that have puzzled many for more than ninety years."—Carla Lind, author of The Wright Style: Re-Creating the Spirit of Frank Lloyd Wright and Lost Wright
"A fascinating, insightful examination of a Wisconsin 'crime of the century,' a bizarre and tragic event that changed Wright's life, his career, and perhaps even American residential and architectural design.”—Bill Christofferson, journalist and author of The Man from Clear Lake
The most pivotal and yet least understood event of Frank Lloyd Wright’s celebrated life involves the brutal murders in 1914 of seven adults and children dear to the architect and the destruction by fire of Taliesin, his landmark residence, near Spring Green, Wisconsin. Supplying both a gripping mystery story and a portrait of the artist in his prime, William Drennan wades through the myths surrounding Wright and the massacre, casting fresh light on the formulation of Wright’s architectural ideology and the cataclysmic effects that the Taliesin murders exerted on the fabled architect and on his subsequent designs.
The most pivotal and yet least understood event of Frank Lloyd Wright’s celebrated life involves the brutal murders in 1914 of seven adults and children dear to the architect and the destruction by fire of Taliesin, his landmark residence, near Spring Green, Wisconsin. Unaccountably, the details of that shocking crime have been largely ignored by Wright’s legion of biographers—a historical and cultural gap that is finally addressed in William Drennan’s exhaustively researched Death in a Prairie House: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Murders.
In response to the scandal generated by his open affair with the proto-feminist and free love advocate Mamah Borthwick Cheney, Wright had begun to build Taliesin as a refuge and "love cottage" for himself and his mistress (both married at the time to others).
Conceived as the apotheosis of Wright’s prairie house style, the original Taliesin would stand in all its isolated glory for only a few months before the bloody slayings that rocked the nation and reduced the structure itself to a smoking hull.
Supplying both a gripping mystery story and an authoritative portrait of the artist as a young man, Drennan wades through the myths surrounding Wright and the massacre, casting fresh light on the formulation of Wright’s architectural ideology and the cataclysmic effects that the Taliesin murders exerted on the fabled architect and on his subsequent designs. Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the American Association of School Librarians, and Outstanding Book, selected by the Public Library Association
A fresh assessment of Wright focusing on the evolution of his thinking and writings from the 1890s to the 1950s, showing how his ideas for living emerged from the nineteenth century to anticipate the twenty-first.
About the Author
William R. Drennan is professor emeritus of English at the University of Wisconsin–Baraboo/Sauk County and adjunct instructor in the Department of English at Appalachian State University, in Boone, North Carolina. Jim Fleming, host of the Peabody award-winning program To the Best of Our Knowledge, has been reading books aloud for thirty years on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Chapter a Day®.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Truth against the World
1 Architects and Machines
2 The Prairie and the World
3 Japan and After
4 An Autobiography and the Fellowship
5 Broadacre City and the 1930s
Conclusion: A Second Career
Appendix: Divorce Papers of William C. and Anna L. Wright
Bibliography of Works Consulted