“You know, daughter, may I be frank with you?”
“Sure, dad” I said unsure.
My parents were not unconditional fans of my stories the way they were of my hair. Have you seen Woody Allen’s parents talking about his work? “You don’t think you are someone just because you wrote a few scripts!” Well, it was nothing like that. But I never received from them unabashed acclaim either. There was always a but or a well. What was pathetic was that my short stories were just elaborate mother’s and father’s days letters!
“I think you write better than Clarice Lispector.”
Total surprise. Clarice Lispector is the Brazilian Virginia Woolf.
“I don’t know, you don’t have her affectations.” My father made some rococo gestures.
“I find it odd that you say that,” I challenged my father “because some of Clarice’s stories I think I’ve actually written myself.”
Something in this last sentence rang a bell for my father. He straightened up, his eyes opened up. Were he a dog his ears would have lifted. My father could actually move his ears, so it quite possible that he had actually lifted them like a dog.
“Is it true, Guga?”
“Yes, some of her stories…”
He interrupted me:
“You know, it’s the same with me. I am Frank Lloyd Wright. I made the Fallingwater House. I made it all. I remember the first time I saw the falling water and designed in my mind the house structures. Jeez, Taliesin, I loved that place!
My father hadn’t visited Taliesin in his trip to the United States, it was distant from the NY-Chicago-San Francisco circuit. When I and my brother visited Arizona we included it.
“That’s why the lack of recognition is so frustrating”, he went on. “I look at the Guggenheim, which is that spectacular project – not just a project, it’s a statement, it’s architecture” the words gained emphasis while he spoke, became something else, life, culture “and they don’t recognize my talent? How can that be?”
He was right, what an insane world! There you had chatting Clarice Lispector and Frank Lloyd Wright, two revolutionaries, and all they had was one short story here, one little project there. Everything was so fought after, so hard to get. At the door, had the world any logic, editors and construction companies would be fighting with each other like in a Roman circus. But we were the ones who knocked at their doors and celebrated like two nobodies every single deal, every publication. A compliment from a well-known writer made me very happy. A consigned sculpture in a gallery excited my father.
My father slowly noticed I wrote, and most importantly I knew what it was to win a competition – “wow, daughter, first place? All I’ve gotten was a second” – and what it was to lose a competition – “losing a competition is the same as being robbed at gunpoint: from the application to the results the award is yours, and in the next minute it’s someone else’s.”
That made me an interesting partner. A really interesting one. Better than Clarice Lispector.