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The Tallest Doll in New York City

3.13  ·  Rating details ·  134 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Nebula Award-nominated author Maria Dahvana Headley has always loved Damon Runyon's stylized faux-reporting on New York City. This is her version of a Runyon tale—this one dealing with the architectural guys and dolls of New York City—and a valentine to all the beautiful buildings she knows.

It's Valentine's Day, 1938, and the Chrysler Building's tired of waiting on the
ebook, 32 pages
Published November 26th 2014 by Tor Books (first published February 14th 2014)
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Average rating 3.13  · 
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Jul 16, 2016 rated it liked it
The Chrysler is a devastating dame, and that’s nothing new. I could assess her for years and never be done. At night we turn her on, and she glows for miles.

okay, i have to start reviewing these tor shorts for real instead of just having these placeholder reviews tricking me into thinking i've already reviewed them. of the 46 reviews i have to write, 14 of them are for these little tor shorties, and that is crazytown. so, here - i will review this one.

i've set myself some personal reading goals
Feb 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Two fools in love
So beautiful and strong

It's February 14th, 1938, ya see, and the waiters at the exclusive Cloud Club high atop the Chrysler building are getting ready for the big dinner rush.

This calendar square’s worse than most. Every man on our member list is suffering the Saint Valentine’s Cramp, and me and the crew up here are ready with a stocked bar.


The building steps off her foundation and goes for a walk.
There is no warning.
She just shakes the snow and pigeons loose from her
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
You can read this for free: Here from Tor!

Be still, my heart! This was so amazingly unique! I loved it! This story is set in New York, where the tall buildings and structures move on their own. This tale is told on Valentine's Day, and the storyteller is a waiter in a club that works high up inside one of these moving buildings. I loved seeing all these iconic structures choose one another and pair up for Valentine's Day. And the story is told so beautifully, whimsically, and romantically, that
Rebecca McNutt
I'm not really sure what to make of this bizarre little story. I mean, on the plus side, it's free to read. And the writing is so poetic and descriptive! It's great to see an author paying homage to some of New York City's most iconic architecture... but there were some things that were just too strange, even for me, including the buildings, uh, ahem, "having relations", to put it politely. WEIRD. I rarely read romance and I don't like erotic literature anyway, but when it's two buildings it
Jan 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2018, short-story, free
Weird story. Imaginative but offers no connection.
La Coccinelle
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult, short-stories
What the...?!

This was totally surreal and, for me, kind of stupid. I'm guessing the author was trying to imitate a particular style, but it really didn't work for me. I found the narrator (a human waiter in the Cloud Club in the Chrysler Building) to be insipid and underdeveloped. The language--though probably historically accurate--was also irritating; the objectification of women by continually calling them "dolls" throughout the story grated on my nerves after a while. (Would the average
Amy (Other Amy)
I’m at the bar mixing a Horse’s Neck for Mr. Condé Nast, but I’ve got my eye on the mass of members staggering out of the elevators with fur coats, necklaces, and parcels of cling & linger, when, at 5:28p.m. precisely, the Chrysler Building steps off her foundation and goes for a walk.

This really should have worked for me, but it really did not. I am great with the idea of architectural romance (although, for some strange reason, (view spoiler)
This is a weird and cute little story, written by Maria Dahvana Headley in honour of Valentine's day. I do love her version of weird - everything simply is as it is and explanations are unlikely, though you'll usually enjoy the ride.
Read it here free:
Karlyflower *The Vampire Ninja, Luminescent Monster & Wendigo Nerd Goddess of Canada (according to The Hulk)*

Well that was freaking adorable!!!

I am NOT a romantic! I don't go in for the flowers and the hallmarked concept of love, it's just not for me. However, this unorthodox love story was really cute!

Headley's language was fabulous and addictive. Just a quick little tryst, really, but a very enjoyable one.

Hello, my name is Karly and I'm a Tor-aholic! :)
Kimberly Karalius
May 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
So I was poking around Tor and I found this story, "The Tallest Doll in New York." It's pretty adorable. The language used here, reflecting the time period, left me in awe, but what I love most is the strange happening: one night, the Chrysler building decides to go for a walk, carrying the Cloud Club's waitstaff within:

"We joke about working in the body of the best broad in New York City, but no one on the waitstaff ever thinks that the Chrysler might have a will of her own. She’s beautiful,
**✿❀ Maki ❀✿**
I've read some really strange stuff in my day. Hell, I frequent the Amazon freebie bin, and gleefully snatch up the most insane-sounding books I can find. I was tempted to spend money on Bearllionaire, because oh my god that sounds amazingly terrible!

But this...this...

I think I've finally found it. This is it. Anthropomorphic buildings having sex in a river is where I draw the line.

I have finally found something that is too weird for me.

Don't get me wrong - I can appreciate a fine piece of
Hélène Louise
Good writing, an intriguing idea but a very confusing narrative (I couldn't understand if the "we" was for a building or for all the waiters) and a off-handedly narrative: the practical consequences of such an incredible action are ignored, the buildings just sprout some handy members to walk, dance and... much more.

Still I would have been a tiny more generous if for the very irritating and silly overuse of the word "doll" instead of "woman", "girl", "female" etc. I imagine that it's supposed to
J. Boo
Jul 18, 2016 rated it did not like it
A vaguely interesting idea (two buildings are in love, the people inside must deal with it) with lousy execution. Perhaps not enough time to develop the scene? The jump straight into the (thankfully ill-described) Chrysler building 'putting out'?

Why oh why do I keep reading Tor's free online short stories? Oh. Free and online and short. One of these days I will learn my lesson.
Apr 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Extreme strangeness, in the mindtwisting style of China Mieville, but also a very well delivered style reference to its source material, in the writing of Damon Runyon.
Suanne Laqueur
Jul 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-five-stars
Adorable, charming, delicious and far too short!!
Jennifer B.
Feb 14, 2018 rated it liked it
I like the idea! I've always attributed personalities and feelings to buildings. And the Chrysler is one of my all time favorites!
Oct 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Surreal. Short. First experience with this writer, I think. Will pursue more (and longer).
Jinx:The:Poet {the Literary Masochist, Ink Ninja & Word Roamer}
The Tallest Doll in New York, a Tor short story was definitely a unique read though I can't say I'd really enjoyed it. I liked the fact the buildings lived and loved but there was something that made it feel bland to me. It was an alright work but it doesn't drive me to seek out more by this author or to highly recommend it. This just wasn't for me.

"At 12:16 a.m., the Chrysler and the Empire call down the lightning into their spires, and all of us, dolls and guys, waiters and chanteuses,
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, short-story
This is an adorable, ridiculous, perfect Valentine short story. A waiter who works in the Chrysler Building at the Cloud Club is narrating the day, when the Chrysler gets tired of waiting and makes her way over to the Empire building she has fallen in love with.

I love the style, the tone, the vivid descriptions, the nonchalant “We shoulda predicted this, boss”, how all the city's buildings get into the act, the fact that he tightropes across while the buildings are getting busy in order to get
Feb 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It was the perfect time to read this, in lieu of Valentine's Day. This is a short story about two buildings falling in love. No joke. The Chrysler (one of my favorites in NYC) and the Empire go on a date. The story is told through the eyes of a waiter at the Cloud Club in 1938 on Valentine's Day. The story originally showed up on, a really nifty website for science fiction and fantasy lovers.

Highly recommend checking out the story on, or buying a copy for a buck. It was the worth
Alex Sarll
A love story in New York architecture, apparently intended as an homage to Damon Runyon, but I've only just realised that I've always conflated him with Damon Knight, so don't ask me how well it works on that level. It reminded me more of Ghostbusters, and that Pixar short with the volcanoes, and if it's not quite as good as those, well, not much is, so there's no shame there.
Sep 14, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: sci-fi
It's Valentine's Day, 1938, and the Chrysler Building's tired of waiting on the corner of Forty-second and Lex for a certain edifice to notice her. Here's the story of what might happen if two of New York's greatest creations met on a day built for romance.
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014
Sadly , I just couldn't get excited reading it.
Annie (Book Widow, Doomwitch)
Architectural romance. Very unique
Cheesy... waaaay to cheesy.
And I can't help but think: pointless.
Feb 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: sff, ebooks-online
Lovely Valentine's Day story with an interesting premise.
Apr 10, 2017 rated it liked it
What a cute little story.
Feb 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, short-story
4.5 stars: I'm a sucker for any story featuring the buildings of NYC walking and wooing each other on Valentine's Day. Very sweet.
Maggie Gordon
Absolutely bizarre, yet also quite sweet. I think. Are buildings in love sweet or have I left the fleeting remains of my sanity behind?
Zachariah Carlson
Feb 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Super cute!
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Maria Dahvana Headley is the New York Times-bestselling author of, most recently, THE MERE WIFE (out July 17, 2018 from MCD/FSG). Upcoming in 2019 is a new translation of BEOWULF, also from FSG. As well, she is the author of the young adult skyship novels MAGONIA and AERIE from HarperCollins, the dark fantasy/alt-history novel QUEEN OF KINGS, the internationally bestselling memoir THE YEAR OF YES, ...more