232 pages; NYRB Classics
Stultified by his job (editing a plumbing magazine) and his mind-numbing marriage ("a cross between Long Day's Journey into Night and Father Knows Best"), frustrated novelist Lowell Lake welcomes a new obsession: renovating a monstrously dilapidated mansion in a Brooklyn slum. What follows, in L.J. Davis's deadpan 1971 novel A Meaningful Life, reissued by NYRB Classics, is pure chaos, as Lowell confronts a cast of urban squatters, in some of the most brilliant comic turns this side of Alice in Wonderland. A cathartic read for urban pioneers.