Musing on Muses

A new book concerned with William Faulkner's love life and its affect on his work joins a growing multitude of similar volumes; some recent highlights focus on the love lives of Raymond Chandler and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Book Digest I view those books concerned with writers’ love lives and how that affected their work at large with at least detachment and perhaps even skepticism—though unquestionably I respect the efforts in writing and getting a book published.

In Faulkner and Love: The Women Who Shaped His Art (Yale University Press), Faulkner scholar and Arizona State University mentor Judith L. Sensibar (The Origins of Faulkner’s Art) writes about three women who were central to William Faulkner’s creativity. I am confounded when I consider the choice of reading this book or rereading Faulkner’s stories.

In 2007’s The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved (Pantheon) Judith Freeman told the story of Raymond Chandler’s romance and marriage to the older and twice-divorced Cissy Pascal as a window on Chandler, about whom it was claimed: “…Freeman sets out to solve the puzzle of who Chandler was and how he became the writer who would create in Philip Marlowe an icon of American culture.”

And most recently, T.C. Boyle—who has fashioned wonderful novels about real people, including Dr. Alfred Kinsey (The Inner Circle); Cyrus McCormick’s tragically mad son, Stanley Robert McCormick and the amazing Katharine Dexter (Riven Rock); Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (The Road to Wellville); and the Wild Boy of Aveyron (Talk Talk)—has recently published The Women (Viking), a full-bodied fiction about Frank Lloyd Wright and his lovers, and about which Boyle explains:
I should add that while I was personally affected by the work of both Kinsey and Kellogg, as all of us who have engaged in sexual relations and spooned up cornflakes have been, my connection to Frank Lloyd Wright is even more intimate, as I have been privileged to live in his first California house for the past 16 years.
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