Penn lecturer Paul Hendrickson celebrated the publication of his newest book at a Kelly Writers House event Wednesday night.
Hendrickson's friends, colleagues, and previous students filled the room to hear about his newest work, "Plagued by Fire: The Dreams and Furies of Frank Lloyd Wright," which was published earlier this month. At the event, Hendrickson discussed some of the interesting parts of Wright's life contained in the book and talked about his own experiences writing it.
Hendrickson, a senior lecturer in the English department, said he spent seven years writing the book, which explores the life of Frank Lloyd Wright. Unlike a standard biographical piece, Hendrickson’s book explores the architect’s humanity by looking at specific events in his life and also analyzes the role that fire and disaster had in defining Wright's existence.
Hendrickson described his previous work as a reporter for the Washington Post, which gave him a passion for investigation that is reflected in his work. He added that working on the book brought challenges as he learned more about Wright and struggled to come to terms with the architect's egotism.
“About four or five years ago, I was having a crisis among many crises, whether I could keep on with this book, and here is why I began to feel that: I disliked him more than I liked him," Hendrickson said. "I began to panic that this man’s ego and arrogance [were] driving me away, and that I would not be able to finish.”
Despite this and many other ups and downs during his investigation, Hendrickson managed to finish his work and celebrate it with many of the important people in his life.
“I’ve read all of Paul’s books," Kelly Writers House Faculty Director Al Filreis said. "He is an obsessive reporter. He gets everything, he goes all out, and it’s inspiring to read a book like this.”
Many former students also attended, pointing out connections between Hendrickson's writing and their experiences in his courses.
“When we wrote our pieces, he always encouraged us to be very like journalistic [and] investigative, but I don’t think I actually realized the extent which that translates to his life because he spent like seven years on this book,” said Engineering junior May Xiao, who took a class with Hendrickson last spring.
“It was wonderful seeing him here, thriving, writing another book.” Wharton junior Alex Poscente added.
After the event, Hendrickson highlighted the role Kelly Writers House has played for him throughout his time at Penn.
“The Kelly Writers House is, in my opinion, the most special building at the University of Pennsylvania because it is a small building in this great pre-professional University full of large buildings," Hendrickson said. "The four-letter word that I like to associate with this building [is] home. This is a homing place.”
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