Menu

What’s the ultimate price for Loving Frank Lloyd Wright

frankDon’t you just love it when you get into a book you can’t put down, but at the same time hate to finish because you’ve become so invested in the characters’ lives? Loving Frank by Nancy Horan is such a book.  Historical fiction based on the real-life love affair between renowned prairie architect Frank Lloyd Wright and Mameh Borthwick Cheney, Horan provides a sensitive and gripping description of their relationship beginning when Wright was commissioned to design and build a house for Edwin and Mameh Cheney in Oak Park, Illinois. Wright’s reputation as a modernist architect was matched equally by the events in his personal life and Horan provides context to the early years.

Frank Lloyd Wright and Mameh Cheney began their affair early in Wright’s career when Cheney and her husband were clients of Wright. Both were intellectuals and shared an esthetic value system. Borthwick-Cheney possessed a Master’s Degree and was fluent in several languages. She was an early feminist who felt stifled and unfilled in her personal life as wife of Edwin Cheney and mother to two young children, John and Martha. Her love for Wright was overriding and resulted in her abandoning her husband and children while visiting a friend in Colorado. She accompanied Wright on a year-long trip to Europe where he was working with a German publisher on a print compilation of his drawings and designs.

During a stopover in France, Mameh read a book by well-known Swedish feminist Ellen Key which addressed her on-going guilt about abandoning her children and helped reconcile her decision to choose Frank Lloyd Wright over her family. After meeting Key at a lecture, they developed a personal and professional relationship that resulted in Mameh acting as American translator for Key’s writing. Following an idyllic stay in Tuscany, Wright and Borthwick-Cheney returned to the United States to a storm of hateful press and rejection by society. He had left his wife Catherine, who refused to give him a divorce, and six children and she left her husband and two children which was an unforgiveable sin in the early twentieth century.

How different would be the reaction if their affair had happened in 2014 instead of 1914?
How different would the reaction be to their love affair if it had happened today instead of 1914?

They retreated to an isolated life in rural Wisconsin in a house Wright designed and was building for Mameh. He commuted to Chicago for business and hired local trades people to work on the construction of their private compound named Taliesin. But life together was challenging. Not only were they reviled for their love affair, but Frank was a terrible business person and his financial affairs were in constant turmoil. His excessive ego and casual attitude toward paying his bills were the source of ongoing disputes and conflict. He owed money to workers and suppliers on his new home and he wasn’t getting new commissions because his personal life with Mameh was deemed to be sinful.

Anyone who has any knowledge of Frank Lloyd Wright and the history of his personal life will be gripped by the little-known story of his relationship with Mameh, who many consider to be his one true love. For those readers who are not familiar with their story, I won’t spoil it by giving you the ending. Nancy Horan wrote a beautiful book about two tragic characters by inserting herself into the mind of Mameh Borthwick Cheney. I couldn’t and didn’t put it down until, sadly, I finished. I give Loving Frank ten out of ten.

To order a copy of Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, click here.

Click the “Follow” icon to receive automatic notifications of new BOOMERBROADcast postings.

Feel free to share this blog post via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail or other social media links below.

Continue Reading

Megyn Kelly trumps it in career, life and love

megynI love reading about strong, successful women. Broadcast journalist Megyn Kelly of FOX TV’s The Kelly Report and author of a new autobiography Settle For More is such woman. Kelly gained a great deal of attention during the 2016 Presidential debates in the United States for nailing Donald Trump with some tough questions. As everyone knows, Trump does not like being put on the spot or having his “truthiness” questioned. He responded by insulting Kelly, demeaning her professionalism, calling her a bimbo and suggesting she was disagreeable because she had her period or some such female affliction. Well, then the shit hit the fan.

Megyn Kelly is probably better qualified than Donald Trump for the job he will soon take over. Just reading her story is almost exhausting in itself. An über achiever in a middle-class family from upper New York State, she built successful careers for herself first in law and then broadcast journalism. While we mouse-burgers (remember Helen Gurley Brown?) can identify with not having the advantages of a great body and beautiful face, Kelly describes how those gifts can be equally perilous. Her childhood was normal and happy until seventh grade when for an entire year, she was the victim of bullying and ostracization by her group of friends at school. Then, magically, after a year of being treated like a leper the bullying stopped. But the experience had a life-long impact.

During her year of being bullied, Megyn Kelly’s defence strategy was proving herself smarter, better and all-round stronger than her adversaries. She grew a thick skin, worked harder at school and generally faked not being affected by the bullying. She was determined to never again allow others to make her feel less than whole, accomplished and valued. After college she attended law school and in a male-dominated field proved herself to be smarter and tougher than her classmates and ultimately her co-workers. Like all young lawyers starting out, she worked killer hours for nearly ten years to build and reinforce her professional reputation. As anyone in business knows, this dedication comes at a price. With no personal life, hobbies or friends, life soon became unbearable. After marrying a promising doctor and moving cities to accommodate his career (where have we heard that before?) she realized she hated her job and was unhappy in her marriage.

True to character, Megyn Kelly did not give in to Donald Trump's bullying and threats.
True to character, Megyn Kelly did not give in to Donald Trump’s bullying and threats.

Kelly always had an interest in journalism and had in fact been turned down for journalism school before going into law. Starting again at the bottom of the career ladder in a new field, Kelly worked her way through news-on-the-spot field reports, 5:00 a.m. studio reporting slots, researching issues and once again building her credentials as a broadcast journalist. By the time she had her own 9:00 p.m. prime time show on FOX network, Kelly was a recognized name and a player in the reporting of the 2016 Presidential campaign. While all this was happening, she remarried, had three children and unwittingly became the media victim of Donald Trump. Kelly goes into great detail about the chronology and details of the events surrounding her conflict with Trump. She also supported female coworkers in the sexual discrimination charges against FOX News Chairman and C.E.O. Roger Ailes. Megyn Kelly is fair and balanced in her descriptions of both the Trump and Ailes controversies, a skill gained from her years practising law.

Reading about Megyn Kelly’s drive and determination can at times feel overwhelming but she’s also candid about her weaknesses and failures. One of the best lessons she learned from Roger Ailes was to reveal her vulnerable side from time to time; it was humanizing in someone so focused on being tough and successful. The title Settle For More refers to her mantra, her motivation and there are few people in this world with that kind of stamina. Women in particular, however, often need to be reminded of our value, our accomplishments and our potential. For inspiration about aspiration, read Megyn Kelly’s Settle For More.

Click the “Follow” icon to receive automatic notifications of new BOOMERBROADcast postings.

Feel free to share this blog post via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail or other social media links below.

 

Continue Reading

Better understand the challenges of Native Canadians on reserves

shimo1Sometimes we need to read a book that makes us feel uncomfortable and think about issues we don’t ordinarily confront. Such is the case with Invisible North, The Search for Answers on a Troubled Reserve by Alexandra Shimo. I first saw her interviewed on The Social on CTV and found her story fascinating. The Toronto journalist temporarily relocated to Kashechewan, a reserve in northern Ontario that was in the news in 2005 when it was revealed their eighteen hundred residents were facing a crisis with drinking water contaminated with e-coli. The drinking water problem was just the tip of the iceberg, as is the case with so many challenges facing Native Canadians living on remote reserves. Shimo’s research took her into areas darker and deeper than just tainted drinking water.

It’s common knowledge that life on many native reserves is difficult and troubled. This is manifested in social problems including drug and alcohol abuse, violence, unemployment rates running at eighty-five percent and extreme poverty. Non-natives and urbanites are tempted to naively speculate on the causes and solutions but we really have no first-hand experience with their living conditions and the regulations governing their existence. Shimo confronts these issues and in her well-researched and detailed account she explains the how’s, why’s, when’s and where’s that resulted in the current miasma. And the federal government has a lot to answer for.

An inept government agent decreed that Kashechewan be relocated to a flood plain west of James Bay. Consequently, residents' homes are flooded every spring.
An inept government agent decreed that Kashechewan be relocated to a flood plain just thirty-five feet above sea level, west of James Bay. Consequently, residents’ homes are flooded every spring.

Shimo describes the chronic shortage of nutritious, affordable food and understands first-hand why so many residents live on boxed mac and cheese and canned meat like Klik. When a small frozen pizza costs $30.00, a single head of cabbage is $12.89 or a dozen eggs are priced at $15.00, it’s no wonder people living on welfare of less than four hundred dollars a month cannot get enough to eat. Combine this with chronic overcrowding in dilapidated, poorly built homes, no job opportunities, lack of medical care, and the annual threat of their homes being flooded because that’s where the government planted the community, it’s understandable why there are high rates of abuse and suicide. While living on the reserve the author developed the same health and psychological problems as its residents but as a non-native she had the option of flying “home” for recovery.

As a result of reading this book I learned about how little control Native Canadians have over their own lives.. Even though reserve land is supposedly owned and managed by Indians, in fact it’s not. Reservations are considered crown land and subject to the whims and dictates of various government agents. Hence, the tragic and ill-conceived relocation of many communities such as Davis Inlet and Kashechewan. Hundreds of studies, reports and proposals over the years have resulted in great promises that never deliver.

Lacking the expertise to carry out repairs and maintenance necessary as well as no fire department to service homes in the community, fires are common and brutal.
Lacking the local expertise to carry out electrical and other repairs to homes, fires are frequent and brutal. And the community has no active fire department.

To her credit, Shimo doesn’t just present and sensationalize the problems. She details the myriad of ill-conceived government interventions and legislation that have undermined life for Native Canadians. We’re given a better understanding of how the situation developed and in her final chapter offers several suggestions on how each of us can help alleviate it. If no one has already sent this book to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and every cabinet minister then they should. It’s a sober and objective look at a situation that should not exist in a country as bountiful as Canada. At around two hundred pages (depending on the font size of your e-reader) it’s a fast read and more enlightening than you would imagine. Please read Invisible North. You’ll be glad you did.

Click the “Follow” icon to receive automatic notifications of new BOOMERBROADcast postings.

Feel free to share this blog post via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail or other social media links below.

Continue Reading

Where are real women in the media?

The feminist perspective is relevant and slowly disappearing.
The feminist perspective is relevant but sadly it’s disappearing.

It’s a man’s world in the media. Earlier this year I wrote about SiriusXM radio cancelling my favourite women’s programs (The Judith Regan Show, What She Said and The Martha Stewart Channel, click here to read Sirius, we have a problem). I’m seriously fed up with Sirius and wish they paid more attention to their women listeners. Then, in April of this year my favourite magazine MORE (for mature women) ceased publishing due to lack of advertising revenue (click here for It’s time for some Boomer backlash). The dragnet is widening as Chatelaine and Macleans Magazines are reducing their frequency to bi-monthly and monthly respectively. And Canadian fashion mag LOULOU has ceased publication altogether.

It’s no secret that the advent of digital media has hurt print publishing. My daily newspaper is getting thinner and thinner. With print ad revenue diminishing in favour of on-line marketing, print publishers are laying off columnists and sourcing material from freelancers, shared news sources and, horrors, click-bait. That makes it harder for readers of any gender to enjoy exclusive, original, well-researched, intelligent material. Our information comes in the form of homogenized sound, print or on-line bytes. There are more sports channels on radio and television than I can count and while women have the ubiquitous HGTV option, our choices are painfully limited. It may surprise the men running media operations that women are interested in issues far beyond fashion, decorating, weight-loss and beauty tips. Women in the media is about more than pretty blondes with toned arms in sleeveless dresses reading the news. Women entrepreneurs and success stories have always been a subject of fascination for me but like great women world leaders, composers, artists, scientists and writers of centuries ago, these women and their accomplishments are buried in history, their stories never to be shared.

media1We’ve lost a number of print publications as well as radio and television programs. While the reasons cited are bottom-line related, it concerns me that quality programming for women is disappearing. I don’t know what the solution is. I already subscribe to more than a dozen magazines each month and heaven knows I support their advertisers by buying product but it doesn’t seem to be enough. It seems I’m constantly chasing diminishing sources of sharp, women-centric news and information but I feel like a dog chasing a car. I’ll never catch it and no one hears me barking. But I’ll keep doing it because I’m afraid I’ll get run over. Or perhaps I have already. Hello? Is anyone listening?

Click the “Follow” icon to receive automatic notifications of new BOOMERBROADcast postings.

Feel free to share this blog post via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail or other social media links below.

Continue Reading

Experiencing history through the occupants of The House By The Lake

house1The only thing I enjoy reading more than historical fiction is historical non-fiction and The House by the Lake* is one of those rare books that keeps you turning the pages even though you don’t want it to end. Author Thomas Harding (the original family name was anglicized from Hirschowitz) chronicles his family’s history in relation to a cottage in Germany built in 1929 by Harding’s great-grandfather, Doctor Alfred Alexander. Located on a small lake about twenty-five miles southwest of Berlin in a town called Groβ Glienicke the cottage serves as the main character for the story and a metaphor for the history surrounding it.

Dr. Alexander was a successful Jewish physician in Berlin after the First World War, whose famous patients included Alfred Einstein and Marlene Dietrich. As his fortunes improved, Dr. Alexander hired the same architect who designed his medical offices to design a weekend and summer country home for his growing family including his wife Henny and four children, Bella, Elsie and twins Hanns and Paul. As in Canada, these dwellings or cottages are not full-time residences and Dr. Alexander’s cottage is thereafter referred to in the book as “the lake house”.

The story actually begins in the late nineteenth century with a description of how the land on which the cottage was built was part of an estate that was later subdivided to permit the building of weekend homes on leased land. The early history is relevant as it impacts subsequent legal issues that arise surrounding ownership of the property and cottage. As the Nazis rise to power, the Alexander family is forced to flee Germany. With two daughters falling in love with and marrying British citizens, emigration to England was made possible for the entire family.

During the 1930s and 1940s the lake house was leased to various tenants according to the political climate at the time. Eventually it became obvious the Alexanders would have to give up on any claim on the cottage when the property became part of East Germany in the 1950s. An early temporary wall was built between the cottage and the waterfront which eventually became part of the Berlin Wall, a permanent concrete double-walled barricade blocking any access to and view of the lake.

When the Berlin Wall was dismantled in 1989, Thomas Harding, the British great-grandson of Dr. Alexander became curious about the property and began researching and visiting the site over a period of several years. Although the family had given up pursuing any claims on the property, under German law any properties and buildings that had been unlawfully taken from original and legitimate Jewish owners as a result of Nazi persecution were deemed to remain titled to the original owners. Due to the progression of time and a series of increasingly disinterested tenants, the lake house had fallen in disrepair and was slated to be demolished. Harding recognized the historical significance of the building in Germany’s history and lobbied for it to be restored and made into a museum.

In a brilliant interpretation of “if these walls could talk”, the author carefully outlines the history of the lake house and the people who lived there over the years. We see the passage of time in the twentieth century in a small German community from the perspective of the people who were its owners, its occupiers and its tenants over a period of more than eighty years. The characters are well-defined, without judgement by the author and the carefully researched story is accompanied by original photographs and floor plans of the cottage as it evolved over the years. Subtitled One House, Five Families, and A Hundred Years of German History, The House by the Lake is quite simply a fascinating story and I hated to finish the book. An extensive section of footnotes at the end allowed me to learn even more after I finished reading the book. If you’re a fan of history and particularly how the history of Germany unfolded during the twentieth century, then you’ll love this book. I certainly did.

*Not to be confused with The Lake House, a book of fiction by Kate Morton.

Click the “Follow” icon to receive automatic notifications of new BOOMERBROADcast postings.

Feel free to share via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail or other social media links below.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Continue Reading

The Bridge Ladies will resonate with Boomer women

bridge2Mother/daughter relationships are as complex and varied as the romantic kind. Some are loving, understanding and supportive. Others are fraught with angst, accusations and animosity, and many land somewhere in between on the spectrum. In her memoir The Bridge Ladies, Author Betsy Lerner mines her relationship with her own mother through the lens of her mother’s bridge club women who have played together for more than fifty years.

Lerner describes her childhood and growing-up years in terms clearly relatable to Boomer women. Where our mothers were circumspect, played by the rules and for the most part didn’t rock the boat, the Boomer generation rebelled. Lerner eschewed her mother’s penchant for immaculate grooming, instead opting to go out into the world with no makeup, with wet hair and little regard for fashion. By engaging in premarital sex with different partners, smoking dope and seeking a career in the professional world instead of the home, Lerner dismisses her mother’s entire value system. Growing up in an upper middle class Jewish community may not have been everyone’s personal experience, but the differences between our mothers’ expectations of life and what Boomer women expected resulted in a great deal of conflict between the generations. Our mothers did not have the opportunities we have enjoyed and very often the most they could hope for was a kind husband who would provide a safe environment while they raised the children.

Female friendships are the staff of life. Just don't make small talk during a game.
Female friendships are the staff of life. Just don’t make small talk during a game.

One significant difference between our generation and our mothers’ is the level of intimacy with close friends. The Bridge Ladies rarely shared their deepest emotions and certainly not during their weekly meetings. Marital problems, difficult children, even deaths in the family were borne stoically and silently by our mothers. They rarely aired their “dirty laundry” and preferred to maintain a polite facade of control and discipline. Boomer women, on the other hand are open and forthcoming with any and all information about our personal lives. If one of us has “the vag” our entire circle of friends knows about it and offers support. There are no taboos or unmentionable subjects in discussions amongst Boomer women. We share our innermost secrets with each other and count on this sharing to help us over the rough spots.

Predictably, as Lerner reaches middle age, she sees her mother emerging in her own personality when she decides to learn to play bridge and sit in with the The Bridge Ladies whom she has known her entire life. She probes their life experiences for signs of what makes them tick, their coping mechanisms, their true emotions. She finds it difficult to extract the kind of information she shares so freely herself but does manage to connect within the context of their life experiences. The author’s descriptions of the bridge ladies’ conversations, clothing and accessories, homes, condos and husbands is precise and informative. We can envision these people in our own lives.

I’m not a card-player and was once informed that if I couldn’t get euchre through my head then I wouldn’t stand a chance at bridge. Lerner’s bridge lessons and learning curve are more meaningful if you have an understanding of the game but it’s not necessary and the book is an easy read regardless. She approaches the subject and her characters with humour and affection. While her own mother had a tendency to micro-manage her daughter, my mother took the opposite approach. My own mother was non-confrontational and always supportive and protective while being cautious. Reading The Bridge Ladies heightened my awareness of my relationship with my own mother and gave me a further appreciation for how lucky I was. If it can do that for you too, then that’s reason enough to read the book. You’ll enjoy it.

Click the “Follow” icon to receive automatic notifications of new BOOMERBROADcast postings.

Feel free to share via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail or other social media links below.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Continue Reading
Close Menu
×
%d bloggers like this: