New Novel Examines Frank Lloyd Wright's 'Women'
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
More than half a dozen biographies detail the life of the great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Some novelists take a more imaginative view of the subject. There was one novel about Wright's first mistress, a feminist who was brutally murdered at the architect's rural Wisconsin studio. And now in his fictionalized novel, T.C. Boyle writes about almost all of the women in Wright's life. The book is called, "The Women." And Alan Cheuse has this review.
ALAN CHEUSE: There's a cascade of women in Boyle's biographical novel: Wright's mother, his mistress from the Balkans, a belle from Memphis, an early feminist and another man's wife from Chicago. Each of these women gets her due while Wright's trying to design and construct new buildings for a new century. Boyle parcels out all this material by means of a pair of fictional biographers, a Japanese architect who served as apprentice to Wright during the early 1930s, and the architect's grandson by marriage.
Their control over these matters is quiet, deliberate, complete with occasional footnotes. Unlike a conventional biographical narrative, this story unfurls backward in time - starting in the early 1930s, when the Japanese apprentice first meets Wright, back toward the horrific afternoon in 1909 at Wright's house in rural Wisconsin, when violence explodes onto the page. This strategy might not work for building a house - roof first, then walls, then foundation -but it succeeds beautifully in these pages.
In this masterly new book, you get the feel both of Wright's genius and the deep love the women bestowed on him, each in her own way, in Boyle's finest construction yet.
SIEGEL: T.C. Boyle's new novel is called, "The Women." Our reviewer is Alan Cheuse.