I paid a visit last Thursday to a Frank Lloyd Wright house located in the suburbs of St. Louis. Known to specialists as the Kraus House, this two-bedroom, 1,900-square-foot home, completed in 1956, was painstakingly restored and opened to the public a couple of years ago. Most of Wright’s best-known houses are based on square or rectangular grids, but this one is an exception, a sly, witty study in triangles and parallelograms that fit together in unexpected, sometimes startling ways. It’s one of the few surviving Wright houses that contains all of the furnishings and fabrics that were custom-designed by the architect for the original owner. Of the smaller Wright houses I’ve visited, including the two I stayed in last year, it’s the one I like best–so far.
From St. Louis I drove south to Smalltown, U.S.A., where I spent a long weekend hanging out with my family. The Web has become so graphics-intensive that it’s now difficult to view most newspaper sites and art-related blogs and newspaper sites without a high-speed connection, so instead of treading water in the frenzied present, I’ve been lazing around in the fondly remembered past. Among other things, my mother dug up a receipt for the Wurlitzer spinet piano that my father bought for me in 1970, the instrument on which I learned to play. Back then it cost $679.50, the equivalent of $3,423.26 in 2005 dollars. I’m glad I didn’t know then how much they paid for it, but my mother assures me that they got their money’s worth, and all things considered, I’m inclined to agree.
It’s quiet in Smalltown, so much so that half-audible, half-remembered sounds are constantly catching my ear:
• The hollow, rattly clunk of the back door of my mother’s house. (Nobody ever comes in through the front door.)
• The rumble of the furnace fan each time it starts up.
• The faint ticking and buzzing of the electric clock in my bedroom.
• The lonely, distant wail of the freight-train whistle that blows at bedtime.
One alien sound that I brought along with me is the ghostly whistle emitted by the modem of my iBook as it “shakes hands” with the dialup line via which I log onto the Web. “Are you playing music back there?” my mother asked when she heard it yesterday morning.
The only work of art I’ve consumed since arriving in Smalltown (not counting my brother’s home-smoked pork loin) is Lonesome Dove, the four-part 1989 TV movie based on Larry McMurtry’s Western novel. An expansive, elegiac tribute to the hard men of the American frontier, it’s every bit as good as I’d heard, and Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones are, if anything, better still. I’ve also been rereading Dawn Powell’s The Locusts Have No King and drafting a column for Saturday’s Wall Street Journal. Otherwise, I’ve been taking it fairly easy, and plan to keep on doing so after I return to New York on Monday evening. It’s Thanksgiving week, and even a drama critic deserves some time off.
Starting on Saturday, I’ll be spending the next nine days seeing High Fidelity, David Hare’s The Vertical Hour, Tom Stoppard’s Voyage, the New York premiere of David Mamet’s adaptation of The Voysey Inheritance, revivals of Company, Two Trains Running, and Jean Anouilh’s adaptation of Antigone, and performances by the Amelia Piano Trio and the Maria Schneider Orchestra. Gulp!
Details to come, but first I have to drive back to St. Louis and catch a plane to New York. Don’t expect to hear from me again until Wednesday. In the meantime, go buy a turkey.