MANY MASKS: A Life of Frank Lloyd Wright by Brendan Gill
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MANY MASKS: A Life of Frank Lloyd Wright

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Genius, egotist, mythomaniac, sexual rebel, master of media manipulation, legendary Wright comes alive in all his cantankerous complexity in this respectful but nonetheless bracingly unintimidated biography of ""America's greatest architect."" Gill's evaluations of the architect's goals, achievements, and shortcomings are rendered all the more convincing by the fact that the author was a friend of Wright's during what Gill calls the ""late, sunny period of his life."" Born in the Midwest, a son of an ineffectual minister father and an ambitious and quite probably mentally unstable gorgon of a mother, Wright fled to Chicago at an early age. There, thanks to an easygoing attitude toward veracity, he was able to apprentice himself to the renowned Louis Sullivan. From this auspicious beginning, the young man was soon promoting himself as the country's most daringly original architect, a reputation he carefully nurtured throughout his long career. Marriage, six children, and a host of commissions followed, only to be cast away when Wright ran off with the wife of one of his Oak Park, Ill., neighbors. Scandal, whether it involved sexual brigandry or contractual hanky-panky, was to become a regular player in the Wrightian drama. Gill weaves together the strands of his well-researched, highly convoluted narrative with breathtaking dexterity. He enlivens his writing with occasional pinpricks of his own: today's art museums, with their ""blockbuster"" shows and ubiquitous gift counters, are referred to as ""Buffalo Bill circuses,"" for example, and Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead is dismissed as a ""trashy classic."" Sensitive, yet revealingly iconoclastic, and a delight from cover to cover.

Pub Date: Nov. 10th, 1987
Publisher: Putnam