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I have a theory about Gill: In addition to writing Masks to establish his credentials as a worthy architecture critic and to make money, he was using the opportunity to get back at Wright for some perceived slight. In the 50s, Gill wrote (without a byline) the About Town column for the New Yorker. It's just a "who's in town and what are they up to?" gossip column. One thing Wright understood was the value of publicity, and in the 50s, during construction of the Guggenheim, he was in and out of New York often, so I can imagine that he made sure that his name got into print whenever possible. By cozying up to a young writer in a propitious position with ambitions of greater glory, he was able to use Gill to get mentioned in this important magazine. Perhaps when Gill moved on to other jobs, Wright cut him off, or something of that sort, and Gill was put in his place as just someone Wright used for his own purposes.
This may sound far-fetched, but it is not the only such incident. Gill and Joseph Campbell were famously antagonistic toward one another, almost to the point of coming to blows. When Campbell died, Gill wrote a witheringly mean-spirited obituary. He did the same for Kauffmann, making it sound like such a nice, sweet eulogy, while actually stabbing Edgar in the back and twisting the knife. I don't know if he had a run-in with sculptor Louise Nevelson (who had a knack for whittling egotistical windbags like Gill down to size), but she also got nailed in her coffin. And it is worth noting that "Many Masks" did not come out until the famously litigious Olgavanna was safely dead. I think Gill was a small-minded, bitchy old queen who went for the jugular post-mortem. If the lot of Gill's victims have met up somewhere for a cocktail party in the great beyond, I'm sure they are still shunning the garrulous Gill.
The reason that "Many Masks" is popular is that Gill was also an excellant writer. He should have stayed with fiction, however. At the same time his book came out, another biography was published by Harvey Einbinder, who was at the opposite end of the spectrum. His primary job was to write biographical sketches for encyclopaedias. I still don't know if Einbinder's Wright biography is accurate, because it's so dull, I can't read it without falling asleep. It could put Sominex out of business. Gill's is an easy read, and that is why it has become so popular, while Einbinder's was remaindered a week after it was released. If you want a more accurate and readable biography of Frank Lloyd Wright, you will have to wait, because it has yet to be written.
I did not concern myself with architectural inaccuracies in his book (they are found elsewhere and everywhere, many from the loyal legions), but did feel he had an entertaining and accurate take on things normally taboo to discuss in Wrightdom. I have always been fascinated by the encouragement of the myths by those quick to criticize the acknowledgement of shortcomings in Wright's personality; as if it has any affect on the certainty of his architectural genius.
I really enjoyed the book, and if its agenda was for reasons other than to cite Wright's undisputed and troubled personna, so be it-his greatness is not threatened. My question would then be, how does one justify such scathing criticism while not condemning the architectural and personal "whoppers" (to quote Gill) still spewed by many past and present who should know better?