"Plagued by Fire" review

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jay
Posts: 282
Joined: Mon May 02, 2016 8:04 pm

Post by jay »

It's not the "damning of Wright" that I find annoying, it's the hypocrisy. You, me, and the reviewer all agree that the literary quest to "uncover the real Wright" is a dubious exercise.

The reviewer says, and I fully agree: "In the end, what matters is not the life but the work: its vision, its execution, its lessons, its relevance to the way we do and might live."

But her review is simultaneously filled with her own versions of "the real Wright". That's the hypocrisy that annoys me.

SDR
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Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Heh-heh. She does seem determined to outdo her subject in dragging Wright through the rhetorical mud, doesn't she . . .

"You think you've got the goods on this man ?? Let me show you I can find more trouble for him than you've ever dreamed of . . .!

"There---now, what were we talking about ?"



S

Roderick Grant
Posts: 10182
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:48 am

Post by Roderick Grant »

I agree, jay, love it or hate it is the reviewer's job. I was never told this explicitly when I wrote reviews (only because no one else would) for JTF, but intuitively I realized that balance could be dull. I recall Charles Champlin's movie reviews in the LA Times, which were so balanced that I knew before seeing the movie whether I would like it or not. But he was the exception. Most were like Pauline Kael or Rex Reed, utterly biased and thus useless, unless like Reed, you were an ardent admirer of Jean Simmons, who could do no wrong. Another reviewer I recall lamented the need to review a Peggy Lee concert, because he could never find fault with her performances, and knew constant praise could become cloying.

Of this current situation, I would say I agree with the reviewer's opinion of Hendrickson, but dismiss her opinion of FLW.

DavidC
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Location: Oak Ridge, TN

Post by DavidC »


SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »


Matt2
Posts: 233
Joined: Sun Dec 30, 2018 1:07 pm

Post by Matt2 »

I'm about 80 pages in and really enjoying it so far. It's not presented as a fictionalized narrative, which is a good thing. I don't think that approach worked for T.C. Boyle. This is more like "My Dinner with Andre"...if Andre had done a lot of research on FLW and was really trying to get to the core of the man.

These early incidents, however, make me want to know more about Wright's early days in Chicago. What projects was he working on at Silsbee? And later at Sullivan? The Auditorium Building of course, but perhaps other early project hold some clues. The book points out that Wright had basically no college education so everything must have been learned on the job.

Roderick Grant
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Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:48 am

Post by Roderick Grant »

Matt, you might get some interesting information about FLW's early days in Twombly's biography of Sullivan. I believe, however, that it is the beginning of the suggestion of questionable relationships between FLW, Corwin and Sullivan, which I don't buy for a minute.

Matt2
Posts: 233
Joined: Sun Dec 30, 2018 1:07 pm

Post by Matt2 »

I don't buy them either and like The Fellowship book, it seems obligatory to deal with the salacious more than the architecture. What the book did point out is that Wright had two quarters worth of university training...not the three years plus Wright contended. With so little formal education, he must have learned on the job as many did at that time. It would be interesting to trace project by project the trajectory that resulted in a breakthrough like the Winslow House.

Roderick Grant
Posts: 10182
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:48 am

Post by Roderick Grant »

FLW was definitely undereducated. He not only spent only 2 quarters in college, but did not receive a high school diploma. He must have had something that shown through, however, because he was made a "special student" regardless of the lack. Taking FLW at his word about his history is unwise; he lied like a rug.

Another historical tidbit that surprised me when I read it in Thomas Hines' paper: FLW pledged a fraternity! Somehow that seems inconsistent with his makeup.

Mark Hertzberg
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Joined: Fri Jan 07, 2005 7:51 am
Contact:

Post by Mark Hertzberg »

Many comments here and in Facebook's The Wright Attitude say, in effect, that people are more interested in the architecture than the man. How can one understand the architecture fully without exploring the complexity of the man who created it? I respect how meticulously Hendrickson details his research. It is much more useful to have it in the narrative than having to flip back and forth to end notes.
Mark Hertzberg

PrairieMod
Posts: 494
Joined: Fri Feb 24, 2006 12:40 pm
Location: www.prairiemod.com

Post by PrairieMod »

Image

If you're interested in learning more about Wright's early work with Adler & Sullivan, etc., Volume 5/Number 2 of the Journal of Organic Architecture + Design written by Tim Samuelson is a must-read:

https://www.oadarchives.com/product/journal-oa-d-5-2

SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Individual members of Wright's audience will require differing amounts of "background" in order to feel connected to the work, it seems.

Does Wright's personal history explain his work ? I would agree with the man himself that "What a man does, that . . . he has." The work is a reflection of
Wright's intellect and artistic talent; what he did when away from the drafting board accounts for the contents of the various biographies, lurid details and all.
I do not see that matter as necessary to the understanding and appreciation of the building designs.

S

Matt2
Posts: 233
Joined: Sun Dec 30, 2018 1:07 pm

Post by Matt2 »

It's always been about the architecture for me, but after I finish marveling at the space (they are religious experiences after all), the question of how the magic was conjured is only natural.

Most architects of Wright's generation learned their trade as builders or as apprentices to architects, so the lack of a college degree should not be a huge factor (it may have even helped Wright).

I do wonder if the story of Corwin giving up architecture due to Wright's obvious genius is an urban legend...one Wright fueled. It seems odd that Corwin would feature prominently in the auto-bio (which I haven't read due to it's dated prose, but will now) without Wright reaching out to him first.

The other kernel I though interesting was the logically supported assertion that Wright's first job with Silsbee was probably arranged through family connections.

Tom
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Location: Black Mountain, NC

Post by Tom »

Wright, LeCorbusier, and Mies van der Rohe were all not licensed or formally trained architects.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

"non-conformity is more important than taste"

If Wright said or wrote that, it serves perfectly to support my contention that novelty was as important to him as any other motivation.

The same might be said of many another modernist, of course---along with the loftier goals of "improving man's life on Earth" or "returning design to its roots," etc etc, which we have heard from them, in spades . . .

S

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