Shaking Words Out of His Sleeve

© Mark Hertzberg (2023) except photo from Paul Hendrickson of him in his home office

Frank Lloyd Wright told his client for Midway Gardens that “The thing (design) has simply shaken itself out of my sleeve.” Paul Hendrickson, author of the 2019 book about Wright, Plagued by Fire – The Dreams and Furies of Frank Lloyd Wright, is not much different than Wright in that respect.

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We became friends when he was writing Plagued. I have subsequently read many of his books because I am captivated by his writing style. After getting to preview his forthcoming (2024) Fighting the Night about his father in World War II, I wrote him that I think that just as Wright claimed to shake designs out of his sleeve, I think he has a gift to shake words out of his sleeve, letting them flow magically through his fingers and across his keyboard. He is often described as a former reporter for The Washington Post, but Paul was a writer, not just a literal reporter of facts. He now teaches writing at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Hendrickson does not pontificate or lecture the reader. His books are more of a conversation with his readers. He often walks readers through the building blocks that make up the story with explanations in the narrative, eliminating the need to constantly refer to the end notes.

Hendrickson’s first exposure to Wright was when he rode his bicycle past the B. Harley Bradley House near his home in Kankakee, Illinois:

He came home to Kankakee last week as a guest of Wright in Kankakee to talk about the book. The reception for him at the Bradley House and his lecture at the Kankakee Public Library were originally scheduled for March 2020. Then came the Pandemic. This was the first time I heard Hendrickson lecture, no, not lecture, rather, have a conversation with his readers.

LR Hendrickson Bradley House 5.5.23 005.jpgHendrickson, left, with Gaines and Sharon Hall who bought and restored the Bradley House, and then made it possible for Wright in Kankakee to acquire it.

LR Hendrickson Bradley House 5.5.23 002.jpgHendrickson dedicated Plagued to Tim Samuelson, City of Chicago Cultural Historian Emeritus.

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I close asking one favor from you…when you order Hendrickson’s or anyone’s books, first try a local bookshop rather than reflexively ordering from the Big A. We need to save our local bookshops.

Wright in Kankakee’s website:

Please scroll down to see previous posts or articles, including the last one about Tim Samuelson’s “Wright Before the Lloyd”exhibit which just opened in Racine, Wisconsin. It is a reinterpretation of the exhibit he had in Elmhurst, with an emphasis on Wright and Cecil Corwin. 

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