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Best Building as Literary Metaphor


What’s to say about a landmark building that has been home to Iggy Pop and hedge-fund villain Brian Kim? To balladeer Freedy Johnston and actress Julia Stiles? For novelist Tim Murphy, the sixteen-story Christodora House, which sits on Avenue B across from Tompkins Square Park, was not just an edifice, but a metaphor. Which is why he settled on it as the title of his brilliantly sprawling period novel about New York in the age of AIDS. “There is something so silent and stalwart about that building in the way that it looms over the neighborhood,” Murphy told Interview. “And to me the building symbolizes New York in many ways. It’s so impassive. Good or bad things happen to the people but the city just goes on.” Richly populated and delicately nuanced, Christodora seems poised to do two things: a) take its place on any bookshelf of literary classics about New York City; and b) bump up prices in the already spendy building. (Spoiler: Murphy depicts two of the novel’s protagonists shelling out $90,000 for a two-bedroom unit that would comfortably fetch seven figures today.) But don’t think that Murphy, who optioned his book to True Detective auteur Cary Fukunaga as a cable miniseries, was writing with one eye on the real estate market. The novelist not only doesn’t live in the building, he hadn’t even ventured past the lobby until after the manuscript was completed and sold. Allen St. John

Grove Atlantic