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The Gargoyle Hunters: A novel

de John Freeman Gill

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1045205,789 (4.06)3
"Griffin Watts is 13 years old in 1974 New York, a city which, at the brink of financial collapse, seems to crumble around him at roughly the same rate as his family. Desperate to forge a connection to his father, Griffin gets co-opted into his illicit and dangerous architectural salvage business, which allows him to discover the centuries old sculptures (gargoyles) carved into buildings all over the city by immigrant artisans. As his father's obsession with preserving the landmark buildings around him descends into mania, Griffin has to learn how to build himself into the person he wants to become--and let go of what he cannot keep" --… (més)
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Es mostren totes 5
Griffin Watts, a typical NYC kid, lives in a brownstone (although his mother takes in boarders to make it work), loves the Mets and has been known to go "turd watching" at the Seventy-Ninth Street Boat Basin. It's 1974 and the city is in default, overrun with garbage and neglect. Griffin's life is also in shambles. His parents are separated, his father disappears, the brownstone is going into foreclosure, and his new girlfriend, Dani, has moved to Philadelphia.

Before going into hiding, Griffin's father has roped him into stealing architectural ornamentation off of buildings, and even most of an entire building. Griffin questions "whether the tasks my father had in mind for me were reasonable things for a grown man to ask of a thirteen year-old boy who wanted only to get close to him," but he does it.

Griffin's father treats as "sacred objects" (as Joseph Mitchell once wrote in about New York architectural ornamentation in an article that ended up in The New Yorker) the parts of the buildings that are constantly being destroyed in the city. If only he held the same regard for Griffin.

Unrequited love of family and the same love for the ever-changing nature of the city and its architecture are at the center of this story. ( )
  Hagelstein | May 2, 2020 |
The audiobook was narrated by the author, Gill. It is a fascinating (and hopefully completely true) account of this man’s childhood, and father’s obsession with His City, and it’s buildings.
While some parts of this novel may seemed to have dragged on, for some reviewers, sticking with it until the very end is worth it. (And while the ending was not surprising, it was rather sad).
3.5 stars, and recommended. ( )
  stephanie_M | Apr 30, 2020 |
Full review at TheBibliophage.com

John Freeman Gill’s The Gargoyle Hunters is a paean to New York City architecture and bad parenting. It’s also a tender, hilarious coming of age story. Set in the 1970s, I did a lot of reminiscing as I read.

In brief, Griffin Watts becomes a teen as he tells us the story of his life at the time. His parents are “creative types” who are newly separated. Griffin is navigating the changes in himself, his family, and the city around him. The main parental character is his dad Nick, who has a seriously unhealthy obsession with architectural carvings. Griffin gets involved in his business because he wants to spend time with his dad.

Gill does a masterful job of describing the soon-to-be lost beauty of old New York. As one character says, “The only city worth saving is the city we have lost.” During the 70s the city went through a period of intense urban renewal, and Nick Watts is broken hearted about it. He also sees it as an opportunity to boldly pilfer (or as he says rescue) gargoyles, keystones, carvings, columns, etc. All of Gill’s descriptions make me want to take my camera and walk through the cities around me searching for beautiful oddities. ( )
  TheBibliophage | Mar 20, 2018 |
Longtime New York Times contributor John Freeman Gill’s first novel, The Gargoyle Hunters, falls in the category of the New York novel, the city on some level not just setting but character. In this instance, that character is portrayed largely through its buildings—the architecture that seems at once to be the city’s spine and muscle, skin and limbs; an unlikely web of iron and stone through which the narrator, Griffin, recalls his youth. This metaphor, and its juxtaposition of human and artificial, will become central to the book.

On the most basic level, Griffin’s thirteen-year old self seeks to connect with his divorcing parents, particularly his father who now interacts with Griffin, his mother, and sister as little more than a cranky landlord. The only way for Griffin to bridge the emotional distance seems his father’s work as an antique restorer and dealer, a profession which has become something like an obsession, a fixation on the glory of the city’s past.

In turns quirky and cunning, naïve and knowing, achingly sad and subtly comic Gill conjures visuals that will fill your mind and family drama that will haunt you, a combination that leaves you longing to experience Griffin’s lost New York. This is a mystery about the ways in which infatuation with artifice can become such an obsession that we stop caring about things like love and family, ways in which if we’re not careful, we can become more like the stone artifacts Griffin and his father hunt than human beings.

http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/kbaumeister/2017/05/the-nervous-breakdowns-re... ( )
  kurtbaumeister | Oct 25, 2017 |
I alllllmost put this down, but then the architectural elements started coming into play, which was my main interest in the book. I learned some interesting terms and historical tidbits about New York buildings. But then the character of Griffin took hold. A savvy 13 year-old boy in a dysfunctional family who just want to matter. His parents separate and he lives with his mother & older sister and misses his father immensely. On a whim, he off and runs to find his father and is taken into the not-so-legit business of architectural salvage. Along with his father's team of merry pranksters, they beat the wrecking ball to historical buildings to save the many hand-crafted elements fated to be dust. Griffin's size and agility put him in some precarious situations, but his love for his father and yearning for approval steady his fears and propel him on. The offside relationships with his best friend and potential girlfriend were what kept me entertained. Typical teenage shenanigans and innocence rendered several comical predicaments and peccadilloes. Much like Rex Walls in "The Glass Castle" it's heart breaking for Griffin when he realizes his hero no longer is. Still, after a storm of an ending, it finishes with a smile. ( )
  CherylGrimm | Aug 10, 2017 |
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"Griffin Watts is 13 years old in 1974 New York, a city which, at the brink of financial collapse, seems to crumble around him at roughly the same rate as his family. Desperate to forge a connection to his father, Griffin gets co-opted into his illicit and dangerous architectural salvage business, which allows him to discover the centuries old sculptures (gargoyles) carved into buildings all over the city by immigrant artisans. As his father's obsession with preserving the landmark buildings around him descends into mania, Griffin has to learn how to build himself into the person he wants to become--and let go of what he cannot keep" --

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