Huxtable’s Wright – a book that doesn’t stultify

Huxtable's Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright by Ada Louise Huxtable

Penguin Books; 2004

It is safe to say that more books have been written about Frank Lloyd Wright than about any other architect in history due not only to his 70 plus years of innovative, life-changing architecture but also because of his personal life filled with ups and downs found in a telenovela more often than in real life. Working for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and interpreting one of his most personal and greatest works—Taliesin West—on a near daily basis, I am of course researching his life and work in more depth than I had already been familiar with. In this pursuit I just finished my first biography of the man. This one written by Pulitzer Prize winner and celebrated New York Times architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable.

She admits right up front that numerous others have tackled the story of Frank Lloyd Wright. I found her compilation quite pleasant not being a sterile, academic pontification, but rather she tells his story in a very casual, anecdotal manner. I’m sure it isn’t the last biography of this great architect I’ll read (I actually started another before this one and have yet to finish it), but I’m glad Huxtable’s was one of the first.

I learned many things and gained some great new insight to stories I already knew. There were also a few things I didn’t quite agree with based on my other research, but I’m not an expert and haven’t read the countless other well-researched accounts of Wright’s life.

My favorite new word from this book is actually from Wright’s autobiography, which Huxtable uses as a main reference throughout. The word is stultify. This word is such a wonderful word. Oxford Dictionary defines it as “Cause to lose enthusiasm and initiative, especially as a result of a tedious or restrictive routine; Cause (someone) to appear foolish or absurd.” I’ll let you decide why I think this is such a great word.

Anyway, Huxtable’s Frank Lloyd Wright is a fantastic synopsis of a man she aptly describes at one point as “a complex, gifted, dedicated, egocentric, arrogant, deeply believing, self-deluding, willfully embattled man.” It isn’t too long and is a delightful read. I think the next Wright biography I read will be his own.

After all, what better way is there to know a man than by reading his own thoughts and accounts of his life, no matter how exaggerated or false?

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