The Life and
Works of Frank
Lloyd Wright
Maria Constantino

If you wanted a Frank Lloyd Wright house, all you had to do was to write to the master, there in Taliesen, or Taliesen West, and ask him if he would do one for you. If he was broke, which he usually was, he'd probably take it on spec, or even get a contract from you saying that if you ever sold the house, you'd split the profit with him.

Then he would begin, and by the time he was half way through with it, you'd find out that the price had doubled, or quadrupled, and that the local rocks or sand or gravel or whatever he was using to blend in with the surroundings was totally unsuitable for building a house, so one side was crumbling down as the other side was going up. Sooner or later you'd get in a fight with him (everybody did) unless you were a saint, with unlimited resources. Sometimes his projects would hang for years and years (it took him and the Guggenheims thirteen years to find a place for the museum in Manhattan).

He was good at fantasy, making up much of his life as he went along --- like he did his buildings --- and as we page through this scrumptious volume, with its more than 250 color photographs, you have to reflect that he may have been a testy old bastard, but he certainly could stir the pot. Exquisite concrete block, with exquisite design --- not unlike the blocks at Mitla; roofs that did something, rather than just sit there to keep out the sun and the rain and snow off your head; angled lines that could take your breath away; interiors that were elegant with formal primitive designs.

In truth, one gets the feeling that he was at his best when he was working indoors. Maybe he should have been an interior decorator. For example, in the photographs of the interiors, one will find many diverse and diverting chairs (impossible to sit in, with outrageous shapes); windows (impossible to see through, but enticingly decorative); artful but sometimes rough-shod rocks and pebbles and sand, designed to force his structures to be at one with the land. At all times, he wanted his projects to draw on the natural resources at hand. Once, needing uric acid for the roofs at Florida Southern College, he requisitioned a month's worth of urine from the students.

The structures that people say are his "best" often --- in light of the world we inhabit now --- seem not as impressive as they might have been fifty or seventy-five years ago. "Fallingwater" in Pennsylvania is too much of a good thing. A river runs through it, so it must be a son-of-a-bitch to live in during the winter, akin to living inside your refrigerator. The Marin County Civic Center (which took nine years to put together) seems to run on and on, with decorations that are just plain silly; and the Guggenheim: really! It's nothing more than a jolly green giant...snail.

Still, there are ones that unexpectedly win your heart: the Johnson Research Tower in Racine, which is so pure to look at (but which must be a nightmare to work in: he didn't want to screw up his lines by putting in windows); the Unitarian Meeting House in Madison, a great ship hoving into view over the meadow; the Romeo and Juliet Windmill in Spring Green, Wisconsin, built for his aunts' school; and --- of all things, one of his earliest --- a house from 1893 in Oak Park, Illinois, with a fine two story rotunda, and a surprising tall, narrow window peering out at us through the second story roof [see Fig. 2 above]. These, and his chairs, and tables, and the rich decorations, including statues of sprites. These may well be the best of his legacies.

I asked one of my friends who actually worked with Wright what she remembered the most, and she said that most people didn't realize that he was so short. "He probably wasn't more than five-two or -three," she told me. "That's why so many of his doors were so tiny." She also said that he was at his best when it came to use of materials, and that "The Meanings of Materials" was one of his most useful writings for her.

The Life and Works of Frank Lloyd Wright is great to look through, nicely designed, and sometimes, makes you long for a time when there were a few people around to kick architecture into doing something different. Just for show. Which, after all, is exactly what it's all about, isn't it?

---Carlos Amantea

Erotic Tales of
The Victorian Age
Edited by Anonymous
The Buddhists say that pornography is the ultimate agony of a soul searching for but not finding its god. Indeed, lust-writing should be a mystery for all of us. You and I look at these little black curlicues on a white page, and just because we have been taught sounds like "breast" or "groin" or "Ahhhh" or "(Sigh)" --- we find ourselves aroused by it all. At times, pornography appears to be there for no other reason than to test the reasoning powers of our legislators, of our men of the cloth, and of feminists. They are brave folks all, but they appear to be rather frightened of these word-symbols. They say, "We are doing this so the children won't be harmed," oblivious to the fact that children --- by the time they have come to the age of reason --- are intent on protecting their mothers and fathers from that very material, of no redeeming merit, that they, the children, have picked up on the streets, in the back of the classroom, or in the washroom at the North County Church of God Sunday School.

I suspect that those who seek to ban pornography are telling us a great deal about their own fears --- for they can and will never know what their children already know so well. Thank god the young are there to protect their elders from this passionate knowledge.

Having said all that, we would like to acknowledge the fact that the Victorians were very wise to outlaw lust-stories represented in Erotic Tales of the Victorian Age. It gives us writing that is ludicrous, images so twisted as to be inchoate, and action tired enough put those of us who love words and writing completely to sleep. For example:

    She responded with avidity and did not repulse the handsome lad when his hand came up and touched her throat before moving slowly, lingeringly down towards the valley between her breasts, moulding the linen blouse against her skin...
    "Oh, you are so beautiful," murmured Walter as he eased her down on the dry grass and leaned over her. She hardly felt his swift fingers unbutton her blouse and slip the straps of her chemise down from her shoulders. He slid his palms over her breasts, feeling the rosy red nipples pouting hard against his hands. He dared venture further, moving his hand along her leg and under her skirt until he reached her thighs.
    "Ah! Oh! Oh! Walter, don't!" she gasped, contracting her thighs around his fingers.
    I cannot resist you," whispered Walter, smothering her with a renewed burst of kisses, thrusting the velvet tip of his tongue between her soft lips.
    Katie sighed and relaxed her...

...blah blah blah. There are twelve selections presented here, including those of Emile Zola, Frank Harris, Bram Stoker and Richard Burton. The anonymous tales have little to offer unless one is curious to read pornography from so long ago that, compared to what you and I can find on the Internet, words that should be studied as pure innocent twaddle.

Frank Harris' My Life and Loves is scarcely a cut above these tried-and-true ramblings, while Zola's Thérèse Raquin has the advantage of a lusty lady and painter boy-friend wondering what her watching cat would say about their funny-looking jerky movements. There is, fortunately, a thirty-page excerpt from the "Book of Arabian Erotology" --- The Perfumed Garden --- as translated by Richard Burton. Since this, and Lady Chatterley's Lover, and (if you will believe it), Ulysses were about the only pornography we could get in our hot little hands fifty years ago, when we were straining to find out what this humpy-pokey thing was all about, I have a special affection for those three books.

The Perfumed Garden is wonderfully quaint, and the taste of it that you get here should make you want to march right out to get the original. Avoid any recent editions; to protect themselves against the wrath of the noxious PC'ers, editors have cut out the most droll and ridiculous parts, like "The Names of the Organs of Generation Which Should Be Avoided." These are guaranteed to bring a laugh --- if not a sigh.

--- Ignacio Schwartz

Shadows, Fire, Snow
The Life of Tina Modotti
Patricia Albers
(Clarkson Potter)
I can't think of any book that has the potential to fascinate us more than this one. This is a story for you: an impoverished Italian girl who went to Hollywood at the early part of the century, became a star, went to Mexico with Edward Weston, hung out with Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Pablo Neruda, John Dos Passos, and Hemingway, went to Moscow, fought with the loyalists in the Spanish Civil War, and in 1942, died in Mexico City --- possibly, it is said, poisoned by a Stalin goon-squad.

I just can't think of a tale that should fascinate more --- and I can't think of a biographer in the world that blows a good story as quickly as this one. This is from page 1:

    Mostly seasoned European Communists exiled by fascism, they exhale streams of words with their long gray curls of cigarette smoke. Caught between rasping laughter and the low moan of the phonograph, voices wrangle over the fate of Hitler's armies....In one corner, several women thresh out final preparations for the next afternoon's fiesta where Spanish refugee children will squeal with delight at homemade toys....As the bubbly party babble eases, departing guests pull the door shut with a spate of hasta maņanas...

What is it that got me. Was it the "long gray curls of cigarette smoke?" Or "Caught between rasping laughter and the low moan of the phonograph?" No, let's give it to the "bubbly party babble." This is language as lunky as any written by a 9th grade juvenile delinquent in what you and I used to call "Bonehead English."

And if you think I am being hasty (or nasty) by pulling this from the very first page, I now pick this one at random from the middle of Shadows, Fire, Snow:

    Tina, ever thoughtful, showered her friend with attentions, from one of Vocio's handmade handkerchiefs to an ever-sympathetic ear.

You tell me whether being showered by handkerchief, much less an ear --- ever-sympathetic or no --- isn't a bit much?

Want one more --- again, picked at random?

    Her spirit shaded into weary but determined vigilance. After three days, she was put back on board, and, foam bursting from its sides, the Edam at last moaned and creaked toward the Atlantic.

How do you know, Ms. Albers, that her "spirit shaded into weary but determined vigilance?" How do you know that the Edam "moaned and creaked?" Maybe it whispered. Or wheezed. Or gabbled, gurgled, or babbled. Where in god's name do these people learn style --- much less facts? Bubbly party babble indeed!

They tell us in the poop sheet that Albers is a historian and writer. We might buy the former.

--- Lolita Lark