Archives For road trips

Frida and Fallingwater

July 23, 2014 — 1 Comment
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Frida Kahlo, of course. Taken at her studio.

 

Frida Kahlo visited Fallingwater in the late 1930s after Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann purchased two of her paintings at the Julian Levy Gallery. The story goes that Frida was accompanied by Julian Levy and that he and Edgar Kaufmann competed for her affections that night. (And that Levy won.)

In my book, Liliane’s Balcony (which – can I mention? – has received a couple awards since I last blogged), I invoke bits of this story and imagine that it is Liliane Kaufmann who is so drawn to Frida’s dark imagery of open wounds and painful births. These are the two Kahlo paintings the Kaufmanns purchased:

“Recuerdo de la Herida Abierta” (“Remembrance of an Open Wound”) combines Frida’s ongoing physical pain with the emotional pain of Diego’s infidelities:

“Mi Nacimiento” (“My Birth”) is a graphic image created in the wake of one of Frida’s several miscarriages as well as the death of her mother. The painting is currently owned by Madonna, who bought it from Edgar Kaufmann jr. She told Vanity Fair in 1990: “If somebody doesn’t like this painting, then I know they can’t be my friend.”

There are several works by Diego Rivera at Fallingwater, but I’m not nearly as excited about those.

Anyway, earlier this month I was in Mexico City where I was geeking out on all things Frida Kahlo and Leonora Carrington. I got to go to Frida’s home/studio/museum, and there on the wall was a picture of Fallingwater!

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(It’s the one in the middle.)

More images from her studio to come. It was freaking amazing.

 

I got to spend a few days at West Liberty University last week, giving a reading and lecture, visiting classes, and chatting with students. Thanks especially to Steve Criniti, who invited me, and who organized everything, and who let me sit in on his British Modernism seminar, which happened to be about Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, and which happened to be the anniversary of her death (though we didn’t figure that out till later). Also thanks to Peter Staffel and his wife, who toured me around Wheeling, and to WLU’s graphic design student Corrine Martin, who created this awesome flyer with Fallingwater perched on a book:

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I met all sorts of great faculty and students, but unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of people. Instead, here are a few views from the road. A strange combo of urban and rural along the Ohio River. I kept singing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”: Almost heaven, West Virginia…

Visiting Taliesin West

March 19, 2014 — 2 Comments

Frank Lloyd Wright built his winter home & studio, Taliesin West, in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, with money from the Fallingwater commission. I was excited to see my book Liliane’s Balcony on a front table in the gift shop.

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Wright drew on his Welsh background in naming Taliesin (in Spring Green, WI) and Taliesin West; taliesin means “shining brow.” Here are a few other pics from my visit.

I received this email today. Yay! My book Liliane’s Balcony is now available in e-book and regular-book form. All the details are in the message below, including my crazy tour schedule that I have to juggle with my teaching schedule. (Are you in Iowa, Chicago, Baltimore, DC, or Pittsburgh? Can we meet for a drink?)

I love that Rose Metal Press chose to donate 5% of sales in the first two weeks to the preservation of Fallingwater.
Dear Friends, Subscribers, and Supporters of Rose Metal Press:
LAUNCH DAY FOR LILIANE’S BALCONY BY KELCEY PARKER
It’s here! Our fall release, Liliane’s Balcony: A Novella of Fallingwater by Kelcey Parker, is now available for order! Information and all details about the book can be found here. Preorders are on their way! We are so pleased to bring you this innovative novella-in-flash that, among other things, highlights the beauty and complexity of Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Fallingwater and the family who built it.
In honor of the Fallingwater setting, between October 1 and October 15, we are donating 5% of all sales through our website to the preservation of Fallingwater. Order here to contribute to this unique American treasure.
Liliane’s Balcony is already garnering positive reviews and attention. Look for upcoming reviews in Booklist and Publisher’s Weekly as well as coverage in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Rumpus. You can read a new excerpt of the book up on Talking Writing today!
Liliane’s Balcony is also available in e-book format for Kindle and Nook. Bookstore and library orders for print copies can be made through Small Press Distribution.
Caitlin Horrocks writes of the novella: “Liliane’s Balcony is as layered and audacious as the house at the center of the novella. Parker dances effortlessly between present and past, fact and fiction, nature and interior, lovers and out-of-lovers. The story that emerges is moving and precariously beautiful: a book that in lesser hands might have come toppling down. In Parker’s, it’s a triumph.” 
Liliane’s Balcony also features Fran Forman’s artwork on the cover and Heather Butterfield’s cover and book design.
Rose Metal Press Subscribers at the $100 level or more will be receiving their copies of Liliane’s Balcony the week of the launch. There’s still time to SUBSCRIBE to Rose Metal Press for 2013 and support our mission and the work we do while also receiving your copies of our books first. If you subscribe now, you’ll get a copy of our first two 2013 books, as well as Liliane’s Balcony.
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KELCEY PARKER ON TOUR WITH LILIANE’S BALCONY THIS FALL
Kelcey will be reading from Liliane’s Balcony at events around the Midwest and East Coast this fall. Be sure to come out to events near you to hear Kelcey read and get your copy of the book signed! Events are listed on our News page and also below:
Tuesday, October 15
Kelcey Parker reading from Liliane’s Balcony at Prairie Lights at 7:00 pm
Free and open to the publicPrairie Lights
15 South Dubuque St.
Iowa City, Iowa
Wednesday, October 16
Kelcey Parker reading from Liliane’s Balcony for the Local Author Night Series at 7:00 pm
Free and open to the publicThe Book Cellar
4736 North Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, Illinois
Friday, October 18
Kelcey Parker reading from Liliane’s Balcony at the Black Squirrel at 7:00 pm. Event co-hosted by Rose Metal Press and Barrelhouse Books. With Dan Brady, Lee Klein, and Caryn Lazzuri
Free and open to the publicThe Black Squirrel
2427 18th St. NW
Washington, D.C.
Saturday, October 19
Kelcey Parker reading from Liliane’s Balcony in the 510 Reading Series at 5:00 pm
Free and open to the public510 Reading Series
Minás Gallery
815 W. 36th St.
Baltimore, Maryland
Thursday, November 21
Kelcey Parker reading from Liliane’s Balcony in The New Yinzer Reading Series at 7:00 pm
Free and open to the publicThe New Yinzer Reading Series
Modern Formations
4019 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Saturday, November 23
Kelcey Parker reading from Liliane’s Balcony at East End Book Exchange at 7:00 pm
Free and open to the publicEast End Book Exchange
4754 Liberty Ave.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

1. Let’s get straight to it. The number one highlight of the Southern Kentucky Book Fest was this:

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That’s right, I got to hang out with two of my favorite people and authors: Molly McCaffrey (left) and David Bell (right).

2. And I might have gotten to meet this guy:

(He’s standing next to the tall girl in red above. The tall girl makes everyone look shorter than they are. The tall girl apologizes to The Fonz.)

Seriously, Henry Winkler was super friendly and charming. He hugged my friend Molly and told her how much he loves her personality. We bonded over New York / New Jersey connections.

3. I met three overeducated country boys who brew some damn fine IPA over at Country Boy Brewing:

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(Seriously, these guys make great beer, and they majored in things like English and History. They have Master’s Degrees! Yes.)

4. I was assigned an awesome boothmate: Sharon Short

downloadSharon’s new book is My One Square Inch of Alaska, and I’m excited to read my new copy! She also agreed to participate in my interview series, so more about Sharon to come…

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5. Dinner and gossip with the amazing Eric Goodman and Lee Martin, authors of these awesome books that I just bought:

BONUS HIGHLIGHTS:

I sold some books! My attention has been on my forthcoming book, Liliane’s Balcony, due out in the fall, so it was great to talk to people about For Sale By Owner again.

As I drove home I passed a trucker who honked at me. This has not happened to me for years, so I looked in my rearview mirror and saw that he was holding up a sign in his front window that said, “M O M.” I thought, “Geez, how did you know? Is it that obvious?” But when I glanced back again, he had turned the sign over. It now said: “W O W.”
(Oh my!)

I went to Des Moines, Iowa last week to give a reading at Drake University for the Writer’s Harvest Writers + Critics + Artists Event, at the Wesley House Gallery. I think it was my first time actually going to the state of Iowa. I know I’ve been through it (how else would I have made it from Cincinnati to Nebraska or Minnesota for my teenage soccer tournaments?), but I don’t think I’ve ever actually stopped and looked around.

I can now officially say that I am a huge fan of Des Moines, of Iowa, and of Drake University and all its wonderful people!

sculpture park in downtown des moines

I’m also a major a fan of the food (I had sushi for lunch and scalloped yumminess for dinner) and the Belgian beer. I sampled pretty much all the different varieties of Belgian beer while mustachioed Shakespeare watched over me.

In between eating and drinking, I did do some reading:

I’m the tall one.

Many thanks to Jennifer Perrine, Amy Letter, Kelsey Leppard, the Belgian Beer bartender, and everyone else who made my visit so fun!

This will not be my last trip to Iowa, as it is home of my favorite Pickers:

From the very beginning my T-square and triangle were an easy media of expression for my geometrical sense of things.

Frank Lloyd Wright

It’s time for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge! This week: GEOMETRY.

So of course I have to talk about Frank Lloyd Wright. (My Fallingwater novella LILIANE’S BALCONY comes out next fall!)

And of course I’m not going to talk about geometry or photography, I’m just going to tell a story.

A few weeks ago I drove into Chicago to visit the Robie House for the first time. My dad was in town from Colorado, and Chicago is way closer to Indiana than Colorado, so I took the opportunity to drive to the city and have dinner with him. (I was Richly Rewarded with six ounces of filet mignon at Gibson’s Steakhouse. Medium rare. Cooked in an 1800 degree oven. Perfection.)

Before Dinner with Dad, I took an afternoon tour of the Robie House, which is on the campus of the University of Chicago. I was guided perfectly by Siri, but already, even as I drove, I was making comparisons to Fallingwater.

To get to Fallingwater, you drive on the PA Turnpike and get off at an exit for a town you’ve never heard of (different exits depending on which way you’re coming), and then you drive rolling country miles:

through towns like Normalville:

Sometimes you stumble upon some geometry:

Other times you just see rainbows:

What can I say, it’s a very soothing experience just to DRIVE to Fallingwater. It’s much less soothing to drive to the Robie House:

And even when I arrived at the house, there was nowhere to park. It’s on the corner of a long narrow street of elegant old-Chicago homes, and for blocks and blocks the cars are parked bumper to bumper to bumper to bumper. As I passed the Robie House on my left, a guy was directing traffic through the intersection, and I said, “Where do I park for the Robie House?” And he didn’t even stop waving his hand or glance at me as he called back, “59th Street.” Which was like five long blocks back to the main road.

So I turn around and head back, driving slowly in hopes of spying an open parking spot, and the car behind me stays within an inch of my back hatch, and the driver is already gesticulating, and I’m thinking, Dude, Indiana license plate! Figure it out! And then I get behind a car that is waiting for another car to pull out so it can take the parking spot, and the street is too narrow for me to go around, so I wait patiently while Dude behind me starts honking and swerving like HE’s going to go around me, and then I finally make it around the other car and the Dude behind me yells out his window: Fucking bitch! At me! So of course I shove my arm out my window and give him the finger. And then I praaaay that he doesn’t pull out a gun and shoot me before I can get to the Robie House.

So already I’m wishing I were in rural Pennsylvania instead of downtown Chicago. But the walk to the Robie House is quite charming after all.

I arrived just in time for the 3:00 tour. My Robie House guide was super thorough and knowledgeable and did a great job of pointing out all the unique architectural (geometrical!) details of the house. First she took us across the street for an outside view of the house. Note the cars.

And already I’m realizing another difference between the Robie House and Fallingwater: there’s only one tour at a time through the Robie House. Maybe six tours per day, 12 visitors per tour. At Fallingwater, the tours start every 6 minutes, and when I was there the following weekend, they were sold out, with 1200 visitors each day of the weekend.

Back at the Robie House the guide had to battle with the sounds of jackhammers, sirens, and even a helicopter as she tried to talk. Then she walked us around the house and inside through the lower-level foyer.

Where I got a bit distracted by the geometry of a tree:

And the geometry of a window looking through the former children’s playroom:

That empty playroom signals what I would determine is the most significant difference between the Robie House and Fallingwater: the Robie House is empty.

Fallingwater is fully furnished with the original items owned by the Kaufmann family. The bookshelves are positively loaded with books from around the world and across the centuries. When I go through the house I look at book spines as much as at this or that cantilever.

The Robie House, I have to say it again, is empty. It turns out that the Robie Family that commissioned the house in 1908 only lived there for a little over a year before having to sell it to pay off inherited debts. Then two other families owned over the next 20 years. And then it was purchased, along with many other houses on the nearby blocks, by the University of Chicago, and it was used over the years for apartments and meeting places. For a while it was the office of the Alumni Association!

In 1957, there was serious talk of demolishing it (to make room for a student dormitory), and 90-year-old Wright showed up to plead its case. Within a decade it made it onto the appropriate protected historical landmarks list. And thank goodness it did: