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FICTION : THE BUILDING by Thomas Glynn (Knopf: $18.95).

March 30, 1986|SAM HALL KAPLAN

The anti-hero of this surreal novel is a surreal, decaying apartment house, "a grotesque magnificence," deep in the bowels of Brooklyn, tenanted by gross caricatures of every macabre misfit, reject, dropout and criminal conceivable and inconceivable. Thomas Glynn brings them to life, and some to death, with an exhausting energy that shakes the rotting frame of the building, kicks in its double- and triple-locked, steel-plated apartment doors and heaves bodies, appliances and refuse out of broken windows and off the leaking, crumbling roof to the garbage-strewn street below, which is constantly being scanned by a sniper through the cross hairs of a telescopic rifle.

Revealed in the building is the distilled essence of the underside of urban America, where there is no hope, gentrification, nor salvation. Instead, the building is being sucked down into some sort of moral and mystical black hole while bungling bureaucrats fumble with forms, and hypocritical politicians detail counterfeit cures. No race, color, creed, physical or mental handicap escapes Glynn's satire and exaggerations, nor his morality. The vision is predictably apocalyptic. It also is frightening, funny and riveting, delivered in an appropriately manic style that leaves one gasping. A raw talent is on the loose here.

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