27 May 2009

The Women (T.C. Boyle)

Reading this book was kind of killing two birds with one stone. I wanted to read it (one bird) and I've always felt in a vague kind of way that I should read some T.C. Boyle (the other). The Women provided me with the perfect opportunity, seeing as it is about a topic which I am especially interested in: the amazing Frank Lloyd Wright. Specifically his women.

In case you are unaware: FLW is one of history's greatest and most influential architects. And boy did he know it. The book opens with the following quote from FLW: "Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility; I chose arrogance".

Just to give you an idea of the kind of guy we are dealing with (i.e. an awesome one!)

The book is a fictionalised account of his three marriages and one long term affair (the assumption is there were many shorter term affairs as well). Working in reverse chronological order, we are introduced to each new woman as the previous relationship falls apart. One of the main problems seems to be that Frank keeps on 'finding his soul mate' (despite the fact that he's found one/two/three already), each time falling in love completely.

What is great about this book is that you get a readable (admittedly fictionalised but based on fact) account of FLW's life. Previously I had really only known his buildings, reading Boyle I learned he was often a heartbeat away from bankruptcy, the scandal of his wife swapping making it hard to get commissions. Boyle's FLW is a tempestuous artist who knows he is a genius, an obsessive perfectionist, with an insane pull - you can understand why all these women fell under his spell. In fact, someone I work with at the bookshop pointed me out to a customer: "See her, well I think she'd like to be one of 'The Women'."

(Only slightly true...)

8/10 for fascination factor.
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