About the book, The Door-Man
• Publisher: Fomite (February 1, 2022)
• Paperback: 388 pages
In 1917, during the construction of a large reservoir in the Catskill hamlet of Gilboa, New York, a young paleontologist named Winifred Goldring identified fossils from an ancient forest flooded millions of years ago when the earth’s botanical explosion of oxygen opened a path for the evolution of humankind. However, the reservoir water was needed for NYC, and the fossils were buried once again during the flooding of the doomed town.
A mix of fact and fiction, The Door-Man follows three generations of interwoven families who share a deep wound from Gilboa’s last days. The story is told by Winifred’s grandson, a disaffected NYC doorman working near the Central Park Reservoir during its decommissioning in 1993.
The brief and provisional nature of one’s life on earth – and the nested histories of the places, people and events that give it meaning – engender a reckoning within the tangled roots and fragile bonds of family.
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About the author, Peter M. Wheelwright
Peter is a writer, architect, and educator. He is Emeritus Professor at The New School, Parsons School of Design in New York City, where he taught design and wrote on matters of environmental philosophy, design theory, and social practices in the built and natural worlds. Peter comes from a family of writers with an abiding affection for the natural world. His uncle Peter Matthiessen was a three time National Book Award winner, and his brother Jeff Wheelwright is a writer of environmental non-fiction. Educated at Trinity College where he studied painting and sculpture, he went on to receive his Master in Architecture from Princeton University. As an architect, his design work has been widely published in both the national and international press. The Kaleidoscope House, a modernist dollhouse designed in collaboration with artist Laurie Simmons is in the Collection of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art.
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Unlike many of the others who have reviewed The Door-Man for this tour, I’m not fameyiliar with Richard Powers. I came to this novel after a re-read of a bunch of Dan Brown novels, and my experience with it was shaped by the writing of John Stilgoe, whose books like Outside Lies Magic teach us to see beyond the surface of our surroundings
The image of bones in the water, from the opening scenes of this book, will haunt me for a long time. It’s such a visceral concept, and even though it exists only in the mind of the main character Winifred Goldring, it’s one that really sets the tone for this novel.
And what a novel it is! Peter Wheelwright has spun a story that combines an imaginative tale, one that speaks to those of us who grew up reading things like Jurassic Park, with just enough real history to lend the whole work an air of verisimilitude. The city of Gilboa, NY, for example, really did create a reservoir that flooded out some of the world’s oldest trees, moving the town to accommodate the needed water supply.
I’d never heard of Gilboa before reading The Door-Man, but I have always been fascinated by the idea of flooded towns, whether they are actual towns (there’s one in the the Dakotas) or bad B-movies on SyFy.
But Wheelwright’s novel is no b-movie. Rather, it’s a thoughtful, immersive tale of the generations of (fictional) people who were affected by the events in Gilboa, focusing on one family in particular, and moving back and forth in time as it weaves their story into the actual history of the region.
We are introduced to “the men of the family” by Winfred, but the story also introduces us to Piedmont Livingston Kinsolver, who tells us, “I am only a door-man, one of many along Central Park West. No one suspects that it is my considered choice.”
Combining history, science, and family drama, The Door-Man is a novel for those of us who look at the world around us and wonder, “What if?”
Goes well with: clam chowder from an old family recipe, and crusty bread.
Wednesday, February 2nd: Books, Cooks, and Looks
Friday, February 4th: Instagram: @just_another_mother_with_books
Monday, February 7th: Musings of a Literary Wanderer
Tuesday, February 8th: Run Wright
Wednesday, February 9th: Instagram: @readingfortheseasons
Tuesday, February 15th: Instagram: @rynicolereads
Wednesday, February 16th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, March 3rd: Instagram: @hillysreads
Monday, March 14th: Lit and Life
TBD: Wednesday, March 15th: Bibliotica