Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sex and Corruption: The more things change, the more they remain the same

The other day, I was in a "holier than thou" --- well, heck, I've been married (happily... really) for 41 years --- and grousing about John Edwards, and Arnold, and Wiener and all the rest. And he commented, it's always been that way. This weekend I'm halfway through a book that underlines that point. It's THE WOMEN (2009) by T.C. Boyle. It's about the turbulent middle years of the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.

After 20 years and six kids with his first wife, Wright left her for the wife of a neighbor/client. They moved to his dream estate, Taliesen in Wisconsin. On August 15, 1914, a male servant went berserk, slaughtered Wright's mistress and half a dozen others,a nd burt the place to the ground.

Finally receiving his divorce from first-wife Kitty in 1922, Wright married his then-mistress Miriam Noel. She turned out to be a morphine addict. The breakup of their marriage and his liaison with the woman, who would later become his third wife, form the first half of Boyle's novel.

Here's Boyle, talking about himself and the novel:

And here's the February 9, 2009, review from the LA Times:

T.C. Boyle

Viking: 452 pp. $27.95

On paper, T.C. Boyle's latest novel, "The Women," sounds like a prizefight: Swaggering fiction heavyweight takes on America's greatest architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Boyle has written about outsized historical personalities before -- notably, cereal magnate and doctor John Harvey Kellogg in "The Road to Wellville" and midcentury sexologist Alfred Kinsey in "The Inner Circle" -- but Wright's eminence and notoriety towers over both. " 'The Women,' " Boyle has said, "is part of my egomaniacs of the 20th century series," but surely this is the culmination, the apotheosis. As a study of self-regard, how do you top a novel about Frank Lloyd Wright? With one on Picasso? Or Donald Rumsfeld?
Wright's sexual shenanigans got him tangled up with the Mann Act --- federal law making it a crime to transport a woman or child over state lines for immoral purposes --- twice. The first time he hired non other than the famous lawyer, Clarence Darrow, to get him off the hook. Darrow himself was something of a philanderer. He also got into hot water for allegedly bribing jurors. His name came up recently in connection with John Edwards, which sort of brings this post full circle.

Darrow’s path to redemption could serve as a template for Edwards. Darrow faced his accusers squarely in Los Angeles, made eloquent pleas in his own defense and won a “not guilty” verdict in his first trial and a hung jury in the next.

Read more:

Truly, my friend is right: the more things change, the more they remain the same, when it comes to the behavior of rich, famous and powerful men. (Just call me Ozzie Nelson.)

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