Kimmo Sinivuori's Reviews > Inside the Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York's Legendary Chelsea Hotel

Inside the Dream Palace by Sherill Tippins
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In her book "Inside the Dream Palace" Sherill Tippins applies the tested formula to take a cultural icon, in this case the Chelsea Hotel, as the point around which to write a counter cultural history of the USA. In some cases this formula work very well but in some cases it doesn't. Tippins in successful to an extent and there are some good passages that bring out interesting information that is new at least to me.

For example, the stories about the early artists, like Arthur B. Davies whose collection of paintings sparked the idea to establish the NY Museum of Modern Art, who lived in Chelsea are a pleasure. I also enjoyed very much reading about the shamanistic underground film maker Harry Smith. As a matter of fact, I think Tippins should have written the biography of Smith instead, so well she tell his story.

However, the passage about Jack Kerouac is almost embarrassing as Tippins tries desperately to build a case where the failure of Kerouac to accurately portrait his night with Gore Vidal in the Chelsea as a grand betrayal of Kerouac as an artist. Also, l struggled to find what is the link between the creation of Allen Ginsberg's masterpiece the Howl, the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance and Ferlinghetti's battle to keep the Howl in the shops and the Chelsea Hotel?

Often it also seems that Tippins really doesn't have anything new to say like in the case of Arthur Miller's tenure in the Chelsea Hotel or the punk rockers and the Max’s crowd. Nothing new comes out from the tragic tale of Sid and Nancy either.

What I would have liked to read would have been what the staff thought about all the weird characters that stayed in the Chelsea. Was it a pain or was it a pleasure. How did they interact? Where they scared? Did they want to work here? Were there some interesting characters in the payroll?

Also, it would have been nice if Tippins would have put the Chelsea into context with other similar hotels that were favored by artists like the Beat Hotel in Paris where Burroughs and Gysin lodged or the Welcome Hotel in Villefranche-sur-Mer where Cocteau stayed. Were these hotels similar in the way they treated artists? Was the ownership likeminded and did they have any contact?

I would have liked to read more about the lesser characters who inhabited the Chelsea. How did they see the big stars? Last but not least, I think books like this would benefit from much more and better quality illustrations and photographs.

All in all, I liked the book, it was well written and a pleasure to read but it really left me with a feeling that someone could/should write a definitive history of the Chelsea. I think the cultural importance of the place is so great that it deserves it.
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Reading Progress

April 5, 2014 – Shelved
April 5, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
Started Reading
May 22, 2014 – Finished Reading

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Sharon Barrow Wilfong This is a great review. I just finished the book and you're right. There is much more Tippins could have done that I did not even think of. If you know of any other books that might give a better history, please let me know.


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