Andy WarholWhen I first heard the title of the book Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder : Inside the Minds of History’s Great Personalities I was intrigued. I wish I could say it drew me in because I am a cultured art lover. But, no. It was more due to the fact that I have -on multiple occasions- looked around my house and asked, “Is this hoarding?”

It was the perfect book for me at the perfect time. Not only did each self-contained chapter work nicely with my catch-as-catch-can reading schedule, but it also  more than satisfactorily answered this question that had been nagging at me recently.

In this book, author Claudia Kalb examines some of the most interesting personalities throughout history with an angle toward how their unique foibles might be regarded today. For example, according to the prevailing cultural thought on mental and emotional development Albert Einstein would be what we call “on the autism spectrum.”

If the musical genius George Gershwin were growing up today, he likely would have been diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed Ritalin. I can’t help but ask: if that happened, would he still have written a composition as wonderful as Rhapsody in Blue?

Charles Darwin was so wracked with anxiety that I think if he could have known the impact his work would have on science and religion today, he might have reconsidered publishing it. Today’s 24 hour news pundits would have terrified him.

Not so Frank Lloyd Wright. The famous architect had such grand ideas about himself and his work that he was said to be out of touch with reality and often flouted laws of physics (a rather important thing for an architect to consider!) Kalb qualifies him as a candidate for Narcissistic Personality Disorder if there ever was one.

Abraham Lincoln suffered from bouts of depression. If he had access to the same kind of antidepressants that we have today, would he have taken them and if so, would he have been remembered as the same great president?

Marilyn Monroe. Princess Diana. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Christine Jorgensen. Howard Hughes. Betty Ford. All famous and influential in their own time, their own ways and probably lived with conditions defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Commonly referred to as the DSM, it is the go-to reference book used by mental health professionals in identifying and diagnosing mental disorders. First published in 1952, it did not even exist when many of these personalities arrived on the scene.

If you would like to read more about these fascinating people and their interesting ways, check out The book Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder : Inside the Minds of History’s Great Personalities by Claudia Kalb.

Oh, and in case you are wondering: I decided that I am not a hoarder. I just happen to be in the season of life where I share a household with some enthusiastic young collectors of “treasures.” I suppose I will have to find another excuse if the house is still a disaster when the kids move out!



loving_frankFrank Lloyd Wright led a very interesting life.  When I first picked up this fictionalized account, Loving Frank by Nancy Horan,  I assumed it would be about his third wife, Olgivanna, and their stay at Taliesin West in Arizona.  I was surprised to discover that it actually covered his affair with Mamah (pronounced May-muh) Borthwick Cheney of Oak Park, Illinois that occurred between 1907-1914.  Both left their spouses and children, spent time in Europe together and became frequent fodder for scandalous stories in the press.  Writing a novel about real people must be challenging, but particularly so when most of what was available as historical record was yellow journalism.

The author does an excellent job of protraying Mamah, providing plausible motivations for her actions, while still framing them within the social contraints and criticisms of that time.  This is not just some sentimental romance, but a thought-provoking story about society, freedoms and consequences.  Add to that an early and violent death, and you have the makings for your next  book-discussion group title.