The Architect of Desire: Beauty and Danger in the Stanford White Family

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9780385314459: The Architect of Desire: Beauty and Danger in the Stanford White Family
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The story of Stanford White--his scandalous affair with the 16-year-old actress Evelyn Nesbit, his murder in 1906 by her husband, the millionaire Harry K. Thaw, and the hailstorm of publicity that surrounded "the trial of the century"--has proven irresistable to generations of novelists, historians, and biographers. The premier neoclassical architect of his day, White's legacy to the world were such masterpieces as New York's original Madison Square Garden, the Washington Square Arch, and the Players, Metropolitan, and Colony clubs. He was also responsible for the palaces of such clients as the Whitneys, Vanderbilts, and Pulitzers, the robber barons of the Gilded Age whose power and dominance shaped the nation in its heady ascent at the turn of the century.
As the century rolled on, however, the story of Stanford White and Evelyn Nesbit came to be viewed as glamorous and romantic, the darker narrative of White's out-of-control sexual compulsion obscured by time. Indeed, White's wife Bessie and his son Larry remained adamantly silent about the matter for the duration of their lives, a silence that reverberated through the next four generations of their extended family.
Suzannah Lessard is the eldest of Stanford White's great grandchildren. It was only in her 30's that she began to sense the parallels between the silence about her great-grandfather's life and the silence about her own perilous experience as a little girl in her own home. Thus she became drawn to the remarkable history of her family in order to uncover its hidden truths, and in so doing to liberate herself from its enclosure at last. The result is a multi-layered memoir of astonishing elegance and power, one that, like a great building, is illumined room by room, chapter by chapter, until the whole is clearly seen.
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In 1906, Suzannah Lessard's great-grandfather, the prominent architect, socialite, and hedonist Stanford White, was sensationally murdered by the husband of a showgirl White had seduced when she was 16. The acquittal of the killer on the grounds of insanity added to the scandalous gossip. In this beautifully written memoir, Lessard, a writer for the New Yorker, recalls growing up on the White family estate on Long Island, where the murder was a taboo subject. She evokes a sense of repressed and dark passion that infected the harmonious landscaping and architecture White had created. She writes of "coldness that may feel like warmth, or violence that presents as lust for life." In this extraordinarily literary nonfiction mystery, Lessard slowly reveals that her family history held more secrets than the murder, and reaches a startling and controversial climax.

About the Author:

Suzannah Lessard was a staff writer at The New Yorker for twenty years, and her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Harvard Design and The Washington Monthly, of which she is a founding editor. She has received the Whiting award, the Jenny Moore Fellowship at George Washington University, the Anthony Lukas Work-in-progress Award, and a Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars In Washington. She teaches in the MFA program at the New School, as well as in the low residency MFA program at Goucher College.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780385319423: The Architect of Desire: Beauty and Danger in the Stanford White Family

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ISBN 10:  0385319428 ISBN 13:  9780385319423
Publisher: Delta, 1997
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9780297819400: Architect of Desire: Beauty and Danger In The Stanford White Family

Trafal..., 1997
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9780297820031: The architect of desire: beauty and danger in the Stanford White family

Weiden..., 1997
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