THE BUILDING by Thomas Glynn
Kirkus Star


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The Building is Brooklyn-ur--""where water drips and the only light is what has been hot-wired from a streetlamp, where the marble has been broken with a sledgehammer, where the blood from muggings is brown, where tom and shredded parts of wallets and pocketbooks lie, where broken glass is etched into the cement""--but for Glynn (Temporary, Sanity, 1976) it is a pleasure palace in which baroque urban grotesques sport as tenants, owners, bureaucrats, all mythical figures of grunge. There's Steckler, who's supercharging a Chevy Nova in his apartment; and there's a manically pure painter as well as a Japanese artist whose sole medium is excrement; there's a deposed African dictator who keeps cows in his living room; two muggers named Visa and MasterCharge; a pair of sisters, ex-acrobatic dancers still able to tie themselves into knots; a man who worships roaches as well as a super who prays to the spirits found in fine wood; a band of terrorists; a hapless city-housing-department man who oversees the Building's risings and fallings and final glorious immolation. And above all, with a vatic complacency, there is the building-as-personality, able to endure anything, be it humiliating or magical (one apartment is invaded by fireflies, another begins to sweat blood from the walls)--""like cookie dough squeezed from a baker's cone, events in the building merge into one another so that their mixture becomes more substantial than the isolated event."" And largely--which is Glynn's best success--this happens: the fierceness of this urban expressionistic comedy seems to swirl around an almost placidly doomed center. Imagination and energy are admirable everywhere; it's Glynn's style that is the problem: repetitious and often thinning. Fantastic scenes … la Mark Helprin occur much too regularly, as though timed, as do endless Gilbert Sorrentino-like lists, serial exhaustions that seem mostly to be about stamina-all the turbines going at all times all together, often drowning out what is really awful and funny. Pyrotechnical, occasionally brilliant--but a book finally more busy than memorable.

Pub Date: Jan. 13th, 1985
Publisher: Knopf