173 East 74th Street,
New York, N. Y.
December 12, 1937
Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright,
Dear Mr. Wright,
I am writing a novel about the career of an architect; not an essay or historical treatise, but a novel. I should like to have the privilege of meeting you and discussing it with you. I do not seek your help or collaboration, nor do I wish to impose any work upon you in connection with it. I would like only to see you and to hear you speak. If you do not consider this request a presumption on my part, please grant me permission to come to Wisconsin for an interview with you.
I do not suppose that you have heard my name, since I am not that famous—as yet. My first novel, “We the Living”, was published in 1936. My second [Anthem] will be published this coming spring or fall. My third—the one about architecture—is contracted for by Macmillan in America and by Cassels in England. I am mentioning this only to show that I am not a beginner who proposes to take up your time on a dubious undertaking.
My new novel, to put it very briefly and dryly, is to be the story of an architect who follows his own convictions throughout his life, no matter what society thinks of it or does to him. It is the story of a man who is so true to himself that no others on earth, nor their lies, nor their prejudices can affect him and his work. A man who has an ideal and goes through hell for it.
So you can understand why it seems to me that of all men on earth you are the one I must see. My hero is not you. I do not intend to follow in the novel the events of your life and career.
His life will not be yours, nor his work, perhaps not even his artistic ideals. But his spirit is yours—I think.
His story is the story of human integrity. That is what I am writing. That is what you have lived. And to my knowledge, you are the only one among the men of this century who has lived it. I am writing about a thing impossible these days. You are the only man in whom it is possible and real. It is not anything definite or tangible that I want from an interview with you. It is only the inspiration of seeing before me a living miracle—because the man I am writing about is a miracle whom I want to make alive. I think I can do it alone. I know I will do it better after having seen you.
My novel is not really about architecture, or rather it is not only about architecture. I have chosen architecture merely as the medium through which my theme can be expressed best. And my theme—if it can be stated briefly—could be explained, perhaps, in these words:
“The natural man, the natural way is no longer the desirable way. Man power itself is becoming vicarious. Culture itself a vicarious atonement; academic education in its stead, destroying native powers. Remittances have taken the place of earnings. Criticism takes the place of creation. Life is more and more a vicarious matter of subsisting existence—no subsistence existing as organic. Therefore life is no longer really living.”
I think the man who said this will understand what I am trying to say. And if we find that we speak the same language, as I sometimes think we do, then my book will be what I would like it to be—a monument to you, in a way, to the spirit in you and in your great work.
May I come?
On December 31, Wright’s secretary at Spring Green, Wisconsin, wrote to AR: “I am sorry for this late reply to your letter of the 12th which arrived while Mr. Wright was in the East. He has now left for a several month sojourn in the Arizona desert so there will be no opportunity for you to see him.