The Wright Space
Spencer Hart
(Thunder Bay Press)

How To Grow
World Class
Giant Pumpkins

Don Langevin
(AnneDawn Publishing/Norton)

    Of modern architects there are few
    Who give us something straight and true.
    Beside Frank Lloyd Wright
    What else but a fright
    Do we get from EMP or Centre Pompidou?

--- Anon

Spencer Hart's book is primarily a coffee-table collection of handsome photographs of buildings Frank Lloyd Wright designed, interspersed with bits of text in breathless design-speak.

For example, the author confides that Frank Lloyd Wright's designs create "an unmistakable environment whose unity was based on the free-flowing forms seen in nature, from the spiraling structure of seashells to the arrangement of petals on a flower."

Sure enough, we have "the lobby of the luxurious Arizona Biltmore Hotel, including the backlighted glass mural inspired by abstract forms of the indigenous saguaro cactus and other desert plants." Elsewhere, we find "the mushroom-shaped columns of the innovated, top-lighted Great Workroom of the S. C. Johnson & Son Administration Building in Racine, Wisconsin."

For that matter, the reader cannot help noticing a mysterious, mushroom-shaped object in "the handsome, Usonian living space designed for Dr. Isadore Zimmerman of Manchester New Hampshire, with a focus on the musical events that the Zimmermans held regularly for their circle of friends." The mushroomy thing has ledges for music on it, and visibly provides support for a 'cello leaning against it. In a pinch, I suppose, an elf could live underneath it, although the text does not reveal how many elves belonged to the Zimmerman circle.

Not all the structures in Mr. Wright's buildings remind one of cactuses or mushrooms. Others are reminiscent of the peyote button, the horsetail, the elephant weed, goose barnacles, larval copepods, and at least one is a dead ringer for bread-mold.

Unaccountably, Frank Lloyd Wright neglected to model any of his structures on the pumpkin. Had he been able to study the photographs in How to Raise Giant Pumpkins, he would perhaps have been moved to use this natural form too. The book is filled with photographs of vegetables as big as the gathering room in Taliesin West. In fact, some of them are so big the architect could well have made whole houses out of them.

Growing such monsters is no easy task, as Giant Pumpkins makes clear. The text is filled with ominous warnings such as this: "Do not spray with Roundup or other weedkillers on a windy day --- you'll kill more than you bargained for."

Or this: "Do not try weeding with a machete (a long knife used by laborers to cut down sugar cane and the weapons of choice of serial killers.)" In fact, there is an air of Gothic menace about many of the instructions in this book, not to mention the pictures. This will make it an especially nice Christmas present for your aunt Tillie.

--- J. Gallant

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