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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Author T.C. Boyle discusses the women

    T.C. Boyle’s new novel, “”The Women,”” examines the life of architect Frank Lloyd Wright through his relationships with his wives and mistresses.

    The novel moves backwards through time, which, according to Boyle, “”Gives you a chance to reflect on what love relationships are like; when you meet someone, and they’re great, you love them, and then they turn sour.””

    Boyle spoke at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe on Feb. 25. He looked a bit like the professor you imagine being even more fun at the bar after class or a faintly piratical psychologist – which, in a way, many novelists are.

    “”The Women”” emphasizes Wright’s obstinacies and self-aggrandizing tendencies. Boyle said he would be impossible as a relative or friend. “”If he were here, we wouldn’t even be able to say a word.””

    But that’s also what makes him such a fascinating character, and one of a character trio – including Alfred Kinsey of “”The Inner Circle”” and John Harvey Kellogg of “”The Road to Wellville”” – who fit neatly into what Boyle called, “”This little box set of the egomaniacs of the 20th century.””

    The novel is told from the view of a superficially passive narrator named Tadashi Sato, who is one of the innumerable “”apprentices”” willing to pay Wright for the privilege of working for him.

    In this respect, “”The Women”” has a structure similar to “”The Great Gatsby.”” For Boyle, that means having “”a character who changes and observes the great man, but … learn(s) about the character more than about the great man.””

    “”You learn what the effect of a guru is on some people – to give yourself up to somebody. What is the cost to you?”” said Boyle.

    For Tadashi, the cost is high: Wright separated him from the woman Tadashi thinks he loves, in part because Wright fears that the two will cause a scandal – the novel occurs before the Civil Rights movement – and in part because of racial fears. Tadashi is Japanese and Daisy, his lover, is white.

    In the novel, Tadashi tells the reader, “”I can say that Daisy Hartnett was certainly a natural force, and I too much constrained by expectation.””

    But he’s still constrained by expectation as he tells the story. Boyle said it’s also a cultural thing, preventing Tadashi from seeing Wright in the negative light the reader sometimes does.

    Instead of being a benevolent mentor, Wright often comes off as being self-centered regarding his apprentices and his lovers. The two groups obviously provide him with different things, but he treats them similarly, with art being his primary justification for the way he acts.

    Boyle sees the problems of Wright’s character. “”I’m worried about the effect he has on his acolytes, what type of person he is; but irrespective of that, I do believe that art has no ethical consideration,”” he said.

    Wright was devoted above all else to his art, which might tie into the reason he divorced his first wife, Kitty. Boyle said, “”She was not ready to grow beyond the initial relationship she had with him when she was 16. And he is. It’s going on all around the world tonight as we’re sitting here in a million different households.””

    A similar process might also be going on in dorm rooms throughout campus as relationships move from the honeymoon period to its extreme opposite.

    To him, Boyle’s relationship to his women is “”a kind of horror story. And we love horror stories because they’re not happening to us yet.””

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