Every biographer is faced with a choice: Should the life story be a purely factual account? Or, is it better to employ fictional techniques to convey dialog, thoughts, and emotions? In his biography of Frederick Law Olmsted, author Witold Rybczynski does both.
Witold Rybczynski Examines Olmsted's Life and Times
Witold Rybczynski's book is not merely a biography of Frederick Law Olmsted. It is also a portrait of American life in the nineteenth century. In fact, the structure of the book captures the flavor of a Victorian novel: Fifty-eight short chapters are arranged under enticing headings such as "A Change In Fortune" and "Olmsted Shortens Sail."
Who Was Frederick Law Olmsted?
Olmsted is widely hailed as the man who established landscape architecture as a profession. He was a visionary who foresaw the need for national parks and designed the first large suburban community in the United States. But Olmsted did not discover landscape architecture until he was 35, and his youth was a time of restless searching. He tried his hand at seamanship, farming, and journalism. Traveling through the southern states and Texas, he wrote widely respected essays and books against slavery.
Rybczynski approaches this expansive nineteenth-century life with enthusiasm and awe. In the midst of factual accounts, he often interjects personal asides, comparing Olmsted's experiences with his own and speculating about Olmsted's thoughts and motivations. Periodically, Rybyczynski inserts dramatic narratives printed in italic type. The juxtaposition of factual reporting with fictionalized passages allows the reader to explore Olmsted's life on many levels.
Who is Witold Rybczynski?
Witold Rybczynski is a professor and an architect who is renown for the beauty and depth of his writing. His books include The Most Beautiful House in the World
, City Life
, and the best-selling Home: The Short History Of An Idea
Who is This Book For?
For the scope of its research, A Clearing In The Distance
will appeal to designers and historians. For the compelling retelling of a rich and varied life, the book will delight readers who have no previous knowledge of architecture or landscape design.
The 480 page text includes black and white photos, landscape plans, a selected list of projects by the Olmsted firm, bibliographic notes, and an index.