02/09/2007
          Memorial Bruce Wagner
          Review by Mario Cipresso

        • This is a novel that piqued my interest

          through rumors that it viciously disparaged some very specific high-profile architects, which it does, quite graphically. The story centers itself around a young Venice, California architect, Joan Herlihy, vying for a commission to design a memorial for tsunami victims against the likes of Rem Koolhaas and others. Likely the author’s mouthpiece, Joan (and her partner) regularly launch into crude tirades, debasing the very group of people they wish to be counted among.

          In true L.A. fashion, the book presents itself as a series of overlapping and somewhat disconnected stories early on. Linkages begin to reveal themselves slowly as the story progresses to the point that the once discrete and parallel stories literally run on to each other. Lawsuits and windfalls pervade the lives of all, usually coming on the heels of some life-threatening situation. Each one believes their newfound fortune is an opportunity to make amends for leading lives they apparently regret or just wish to forget.

          Wagner thoroughly infuses this text with his personal interests in Indian culture and spirituality, establishing it as a critical connective thread.

          Well written, the author frequently employs a ‘hard-boiled’, tough-talk pattern of thought and dialogue that can come across as quite contrived at times. Wagner does his research, however. Beyond merely name-dropping, he invokes such details as the particular location where Thom Mayne gets his coffee in Santa Monica surely having encountered him there in some capacity.

          Clearly abreast of the scene, Wagner’s references to current events in architecture make for an enjoyable read although you may be left questioning his true slant.

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