Every good correspondence deserves a quarrel, preferably a violent one; it takes an earthquake to trace the contours of a fault line. For fifteen years the architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959) and the critic Lewis Mumford (1895–1990) enjoyed a lively epistolary friendship, cemented by their commitment to a distinctive American modernism, rooted in the indigenous intellectual tradition of Emerson, Whitman, and Melville.[1] But their brutal falling out over a matter peripheral to their correspondence (American entry into World War II) showed how different their visions were. Such is the theme of this curious and charming book.

In 1926 Mumford received an unexpected fan letter from Wright, congratulating him on his essay “The Poison of Good Taste,” published in H. L. Mencken’s American Mercury. Mumford was already a critic of some...


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