Sold! Amidst concerns about such humdrum hurdles as costs, labor, and practicality, the Körn Society can’t resist the impetus to give sway to self-congratulatory grandstanding, and so bring Nachtman aboard for the commission of a what promises to be a wondrous engineering colossus.
But, of course, the best laid plans of mice and men often go to cost overruns, cutting corners, and makeshift approaches—not to mention the frailties of human nature and second guessing. That blurry line between opulence and the grotesque is straddled many times over, always in danger of tipping the scales from what was conceived as biomorphic beauty, to what may become a more Boschian shock of the new. Will the magnificent edifice be a flight of fancy that sinks like a stone?
With resonating and vibrant prose and vivid imagery, Connell masterfully conveys with an incisive attentiveness the ramping-up of events and the sustaining accumulation of moods and emotions. But for a novella of 124 pages, it constitutes a rich and multilayered approach and execution that sees more than just the surface actions and main characters putting their hearts and souls into the construction of a building: Beneath the foreseeable and anticipated expectations, there is an underlying and more insidious sense of free-floating dread that comes into perverse play. Think Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” as written by Edgar Allan Poe.
Taken altogether, it makes for a novelistic cauldron of seamlessly incremental and tell-tale apprehension that you can’t quite put your finger on, but you’re riveted to read on to find out. After all, as Connell writes, books, “those warehouses of consciousness, are able to reach out across space and time and grab, caress, even force.” As he goes on to note, “There is nothing more dangerous, more sublime than a few hundred or thousand pages fastened together and sandwiched between two covers.” I think 124 pages counts, too.