Twombly seeks to demythologize the architect, which is no easy feat considering that Wright was an egotistical genius who loved to project himself upon the public as a legend who was larger than life. Yet, with meticulous fidelity to fact, Twombly found the man within the myth. At every turn, he corrects inaccuracies stemming from Wright’s own exaggerations and those of his zealous protégés.
Although practical, levelheaded, and factual in approach, the narrative still rises to the emotional and intellectual intensity of its subject. Twombly never underestimates Wright’s achievement, although he somewhat deflates Wright’s popular reputation as an eccentric crank. He accords him a full appreciation without blinking at his foibles and follies. “At sixty-five,” Twombly writes, “he was considered even by many of his admirers as an eccentric, opinionated, flamboyant, arrogant, slightly screwy old man with strange ideas who talked too much.” One gathers that the biographer counts himself among such admirers.
Twombly shares with Wright a radical lack of sympathy for some aspects of capitalist excesses, which Wright’s contemporaries Mark Twain and Sinclair Lewis were also pointing out in their writings. Yet Twombly lets no moralistic or political slant warp his approach. His uncompromising scrutiny of Wright’s life and thought bears a degree of honest assessment that was a long time in coming.
This book offers a balanced, integral account of the individual and his work. It shows how a troubled childhood and a tumultuous personal life shaped Wright’s ideas and thus his impact on a pivotal period in modern culture. His architecture was both a cause and an effect of the upheavals in modern...
(The entire section is 710 words.)