The Door-Man

The Door-Man

Forthcoming: February 1, 2022


“You ask whether I shall discuss ‘man’…I think I shall avoid the whole subject as so surrounded with prejudices, though I fully admit that it is the highest and most interesting problem for the naturalist.”    (Charles Darwin to Alfred Wallace, 12/22/1857)

The Door-Man is based on actual events that took place at the town of Gilboa, NY, during the construction of the Schoharie Reservoir in 1917. That year, as work was beginning on the dam, there was a discovery of fossils in the sandstone quarries. A young paleontologist named Winifred Goldring (1888-1971) made the identification of an ancient forest flooded during the Devonian Period, 350-400 million years ago when the earth’s botanical explosion of oxygen opened the evolutionary path for humankind. Nevertheless, the reservoir water was needed by the City, and the fossils were soon flooded anew, along with the doomed town of Gilboa. The novel is a fictionalized account of the fossil discovery and its aftermath. It follows three generations of interwoven families who share a deep wound from Gilboa’s last days. The story is told by the grandson of Winifred Goldring, a disaffected New York City doorman who works on the upper west side of Manhattan near the Central Park Reservoir during its decommissioning in 1993. He has taken his position in order to be near one of its residents – a person who holds the clue to a dark mystery from Gilboa’s last days. The brief and provisional nature of one’s life on earth – as well as the nested histories of the places, people and events that give meaning to it – forms the backdrop to a self-reckoning within the tangled roots and fragile bonds of family.

“A suspenseful reflection on identity and memory, with their unsparing strangeness and dreamlike fragility, The Door-Man intimates that while time does not heal all, it does elicit forgiveness. Wheelwright reminds us that, like memory itself, life does not progress steadily without opposition, but occurs in unexpected leaps and bounds, seemingly random and always incomplete. A complex and thoughtful book.”

Susanna Moore, Author of “In the Cut” and “Miss Aluminum-A Memoir”

“Wheelwright conjures another time and world, a once-here historical intrigue as poignant as memory. Filled with insight, deft detail, wry wit, The Door-Man is exactly the novelistic embrace we need in our agitated bewilderment.”

John Reed, author of “Snowball’s Chance”

“Like Richard Powers and Barbara Kingsolver, Peter Matthiessen Wheelwright renders the inextricable connection between natural history and human history in this beautifully layered and richly imagined novel. Wheelwright’s perceptive and observant door-man, Kinsolver, is a wonderful repository of comings and goings, past and present. As much philosopher and identity sleuth as valet, he excavates the stories of three generations from their entanglement with the geologic history of upstate New York, thereby offering escape from repetition of an aberrant past. One gets the feeling that Wheelwright knows this territory in his bones!”

                        Paula Closson BuckAuthor of “Summer on the Cold War Planet”

“Starting from the political intrigue, science, and mechanics of a massive public works project – the creation of a reservoir for New York City by flooding communities in the Catskills – The Door-Man is, at one level, a historical fiction, vibrant with the colors and controversies of the region from the early 20th century, and on this strength alone, it would hold us. But Wheelwright’s writing, so rich with detail, winds across generations and brings to life a vast array of characters—from muleskinners and paleontologists to murderers and a door man. We are swept into a swirling plot that is at once suspense story, speculative fiction, romance, and comedy. And it is more than these. Just as blasting the earth in a tiny upstate town reveals a history before history, setting in motion the quest to revive a primeval forest, Wheelwright’s novel takes us deep into human motivation and beyond it, to a concept of time that dwarfs us. Like his own award-winning As It Is On Earth, or like such classic U.S. novels as Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Cather’s My Antonia, or Roth’s American PastoralThe Door-Man asks each of us to reflect on our place on these American lands and among the people we’ve variously misunderstood, loved, displaced, or forgotten.”

Derek Furr, Author of “Suite for Three Voices” and “Semitones”

…more coming soon. This link offers a sneak peek.