Friday, August 01, 2014

LIBRARY LINE: We have designs on an American genius

By LISA SLAVIN, Library Line | 5/7/2013

Frank Lloyd Wright is the subject of our monthly book club at the Ottawa Library.

I thought I already knew a lot about Wright — you know, because of all the art history classes I’ve had, all the beautiful coffee table books I’ve flipped through with gorgeous illustrations of his work. I knew he was famous for having a style all his own, evident in the Prairie homes for which he is so famous — where the stained glass windows were designed to be a part of the harmony and the furniture was often designed for the home, with the house was built around it.

Such home architecture masterpieces as the Robie House in Chicago, the Taliesin homes and Falling Water are matched by his amazing building designs — Midway Gardens in Chicago and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Wright designed lamps, windows, carpets and fireplaces. He did graphic design and created his own typeface. He was a genius who had trouble living a conventional life.

What I had never learned about the talented man was his personal relationships with his family members, particularly the women in his life. I had never heard the story of Mamah (pronounced MAY-muh) Borthwick Chaney.

I never know how Frank and Mamah scandalized Chicago when she left her husband and two young children to flee to Europe with Wright. He left behind a wife and six children of his own. This is all told in the novel by Nancy Horan, “Loving Frank.”

This book is based on facts, although the author had to create much of it because very little is remembered about the intelligent, lovely woman who was having trouble with conventional expectations of women in the early 1900s.

Here is a little bit of the book to entice you to read it and discuss this interesting story with us:

“Edwin didn’t know where she was. Her sister didn’t know either. She had disappeared into a part of Europe that no one’s finger would be drawn to on a map. She felt a sense of relief. It was as if Mamah Chaney, the troubled woman in the headlines, had ceased to exist. For the first time in many days, she didn’t cry before she slept.”

“Loving Frank,” by Nancy Horan, is available at the Ottawa Library for checkout.

Warning: This book is based on a true story. Please do not look up the background facts; Read the book first to allow yourself to be surprised. You’ll be glad you did.

Please join us 7 p.m. May 20 to discuss “Loving Frank.” We are a very informal group, and we like to read a wide genre of books. You don’t have to attend each month; you may pick and choose which books to discuss. We are looking forward to seeing new faces.

Lisa Slavin is an adult programming librarian at the Ottawa Library.

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