Bart's Reviews > Hotel Theory

Hotel Theory by Wayne Koestenbaum
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's review
Jan 28, 08

Recommended to Bart by: Kristin
Recommended for: Postmodern readers
Read in January, 2008

The first puzzle is how to read this essay/novel. The next puzzle is how to enjoy it.

About thirty pages in, I decided to read it by skipping back and fourth between paragraphs, from left column to right column - from essay to novel - in the hopes of using the essay as a platform from which the novel might be better viewed. This worked only modestly well. As the essay seems the more serious exploration of the two, perhaps I should have used the novel to illuminate the essay.

Trouble is, there's no consistent correlation between the two. There are moments when one seems to relate to the other, and there are a variety of hints in the essay about its purpose in the book - but there's nothing that resembles symmetry. Perhaps that's the point?

After 170 or so pages, though, I've decided on a different point. In Hotel Theory Wayne Koestenbaum set out to write about hotels in a variety of ways. He also decided that so long as he was working on the essay or the novel, whatever thought came in his head must be about hotels. This is how we get numerous references to Chopin's music and Walter Benjamin's, well, everything.

Koestenbaum's initial ideas, that hotels are empty spaces that fill with transience and sex, seem to be right and well supported. That every other thought Koestenbaum had over the course of a year or two was also about hotels seems a more dubious proposition.

This book is experimental and worth reading if a person is interested in alternative ways of viewing the written page. Persons who want an occasionally insightful essay, too, may enjoy the left column. The right column, near as I can tell, fulfills no particularly useful function - and if it were read as its own work would be unsatisfying indeed.

I may have solved part of the riddle of how to read Hotel Theory, but I definitely didn't figure out how to enjoy it.

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