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The Hotel New Hampshire
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'The Hotel New Hampshire' discussion

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message 1: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 2 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Discuss September's selection.


Robert (vernson) | 592 comments Not ever having read a John Irving book, is this kind of subject matter the norm? Albeit I have not read much to this point, I am loving the characterizations Irving is conjuring. Each person has a distinct, fully formed voice while the backdrop Irving is creating is completely conceptualized without slowing down the wit and charm.

Loving it so far.

Also, whether it is accidental or not, I'm guessing the latter, I love the way whomever has created the readers list has segued one book into the next in terms of subject matter and mood while having each title coincide with the the current season of the year.

Nicely done!


message 3: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 2 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
I swear I'm starting this today! I have been unable to look away from the horror of Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, but I'll put it down for some Irving.

I can't speak to this book, but Irving's subjects are usually 'quirky' and well-developed.

It's cute that you think there's any kind of logic or flow to how/when read our books!


message 4: by Jason, Walking Allergen (last edited Sep 11, 2012 09:58PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Matt wrote: "It's cute that you think there's any kind of logic or flow to how/when read our books!"

Yeah, Rob, I'm sure we all appreciate the compliment, but we're not nearly that organized.


Robert (vernson) | 592 comments Then perhaps I should be complimenting the fates for the serendipity of the past two selections as they melded seamlessly together as both are reminiscent, wistful reads.


message 6: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 2 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
I'm on pg. 68 of my edition (Indian sans sidecar on the cover). So, what's up with Franny & John? I thought I was just interpreting things as incestuous up until she says he thinks about her too much. Ew?


Robert (vernson) | 592 comments Matt wrote: "I'm on pg. 68 of my edition (Indian sans sidecar on the cover). So, what's up with Franny & John? I thought I was just interpreting things as incestuous up until she says he thinks about her too mu..."


Sounds as if we have the same edition, Matt. (By the way, what do you think about this particular cover?) Heh.

Anyways, fast forward, and yeah, sounds a bit incestuous, though I don't anything has moved beyond the subconscious stage and into the actual act.

Is there a term for a sorority/fraternal relationship akin to that of an Oedipal one? Though in this case I don't think John wishes ill tidings on any of his siblings.


message 8: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
On page 150-something and definitely getting an incestuous vibe from both John and Franny, though mostly John (and, since he's the narrator, his memories of her might be colored by his own feelings).


message 9: by Robert (last edited Sep 14, 2012 03:40PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Robert (vernson) | 592 comments Yeah, ditto-ditto.

I backtracked a bit, to page 47 or so, and already at this point, John narrates a brief discussion between he and Franny, whereas shortly after John has his faced rubbed into the lime used to mark the football field (ouch), Franny is wiping his face with her skirt; he asks, "Why do we like each other more than we like Frank?"

Franny replies, "We just do. And we always will. . ."

At this point it seems fairly innocent enough, but later when John starts to describe Franny physically, he points out her bare waist, and her high breasts, which seems a bit odd considering he is a boy of all 10 or 11 years of age at this point.

I understand that he is merely recollecting his past, so this isn't being told from the perspective of a 10-year old boy, but the memories of an older man.


Changing subjects, earlier, John made a remark as to Lilly disliking or regretting her name or rather that no thought or process was put into the selection of "Lilly" as her name. I know it's early in the story, but did anyone else think of this as some kind of ominous foreshadowing? I have no explanation for it, but given the context at the time, it seemed important. But this could be ado about nothing.


Also, that first chapter!? Wow. He could have ended there. Simply fantastic. Not only did I grieve slightly, (ever so slightly), I almost chortled at the image of the ol' fisherman muttering, ". . ."

Well, I feel as I have said too much already. :)


message 10: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
John is obviously attracted to his sister and does little to hide it from us or her, but I doubt any actual incest will occur. I'm on around page 210, btw.


Robert (vernson) | 592 comments Wow. I gots me some catchin' up tado!!


message 12: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 2 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
So...anybody mind if I open Egg up, pinata style? No, great.
Ugh.


message 13: by Jason, Walking Allergen (last edited Sep 18, 2012 12:52PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Matt wrote: "So...anybody mind if I open Egg up, pinata style? No, great.
Ugh."


"What?"

You may feel bad about that soon.


message 14: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 2 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Jason wrote: "Matt wrote: "So...anybody mind if I open Egg up, pinata style? No, great.
Ugh."

"What?"

You may feel bad about that soon."


Hey, you can't make an omelet w/o breaking an Egg.


message 15: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
First your profess your love for the Myth books, puns and all, and now this. I don't even know you anymore!


message 16: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 2 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
I think this book's making me start to miss Tom Robbins. :|


message 17: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Matt wrote: "I think this book's making me start to miss Tom Robbins. :|"

This won't be one of those podcasts where we agree.


message 18: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (last edited Sep 18, 2012 01:39PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
I really liked The World According to Garp but it did kinda start to wear thin in the last third. This has got the Law of Diminishing Returns for me, so far. I might write a version of Mad Libs that's the "Make-a-John-Irving-novel!" edition.


message 19: by Jason, Walking Allergen (last edited Sep 18, 2012 01:47PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
I wonder what Dave thinks. Is he dead?

Dave, are you dead?


Robert (vernson) | 592 comments Perhaps the colonoscopy delved a bit too deeply?

I feel that Matt needs to somehow segue the two topics; opinions on Irving and Dave's check-ups.


Matt wrote: "I really liked . . . This has got the Law of Diminishing Returns for me, so far. I might write a version of Mad Libs that's the "Make-a-John-Irving-novel!" edition."

If I can find it, there is a graph showing the same methodology to Grant Morrison's writing. Choose from column A, add column B, and so forth.


message 21: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Just had a bunch of stuff going on at the same time, yo.

I'm enjoying the book quite a bit so far. The first chapter was a bit of a bear (groan) but after that it's really become intriguing to me and I'm flying through it now.


message 23: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Dave wrote: "Just had a bunch of stuff going on at the same time, yo.

I'm enjoying the book quite a bit so far. The first chapter was a bit of a bear (groan) but after that it's really become intriguing to me ..."


Are you sure you're not dead? Our downloads are down, and I was hoping we could capitalize on the zombie/vampire craze.

Glad to hear you're digging the book. I wasn't so sure myself when I started...it was around the time the bear showed up that things got interesting to me, and I've loved it ever since.


message 24: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Yeah, the State o' Maine story was kinda interesting at first but (I felt) wore out its welcome pretty quickly. I'm not sure if I found the story itself uninteresting or the way John told it uninteresting...it all seemed like ancient history, most of it prehistory for him, and that conflict in perspective kept me from getting invested early. I didn't really start getting into the story until the focus went to the family as seen through John's perspective.

Speaking of, it's worth exploring (per usual) how reliable we think John as a narrator is. He shows preferences for certain characters over others early, especially Franny; in fact, as has already been said by several people, John seems to look at Franny in a sexual, almost romantic way at times. I'm stressing that last part because those moments (so far) seem to coincide with particular points in John's life--memories of sexual awakening and adolescent frustration--that give way to healthier outlets (such as Ronda). We'll see how the relationship ends up, but I'm wondering whether Irving is exploring John's occasional, not-very-well-hidden attraction to Franny as a deviant relationship or as a natural part of growing up with a pretty and sexually liberated older sister.

Only other bugaboo I've had since State o' Maine went heavenward has been the wildly overused Sorrow metaphor, which, o-KAY, we get it. Everything else has been a blast for me.


message 25: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
A film was made of this book back in 1984 by Tony Richardson. Unfortunately, it's not on DVD, Netflix, or YouTube that I can find, despite a strong cast that included Rob Lowe as John, Jodie Foster as Franny, Paul McCrane as Frank, Beau Bridges as Win Berry, Wallace Shawn as Freud, Seth Green as Egg(!), Matthew Modine as Chip Dove, Wilford Brimley as Iowa Bob, and Dorsey Wright as Junior Jones. Amanda Plummer and Nastassja Kinski also appear as, um, characters I haven't met in the novel yet.

Oh, well. Here's the trailer, anyway. Warning: might contain a spoiler: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w27m94...


message 26: by Jason, Walking Allergen (last edited Sep 19, 2012 03:48PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Dave wrote: "Amanda Plummer and Nastassja Kinski also appear as, um, characters I haven't met in the novel yet."

You haven't met the whores and radicals yet? You better get moving!

Kinski as Susie? They can never make anybody sympathetic ugly in movies. Irritating.


message 27: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (last edited Sep 20, 2012 09:37PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Okay, I'll admit, I gave myself a day's break from this family and I actually kind of look forward to seeing what they're up to now.


message 28: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Jason wrote: "Kinski as Susie? They can never make anybody sympathetic ugly in movies. Irritating."

Now that I've read about Susie a bit, I agree, that's extremely unlikely casting. I wonder if they used makeup to scar her up for the role?

Either way, reminds me of a Wanda Sykes bit from a few years ago where she talked about Charlize Theron playing Aileen Wuornos in Monster. I mean, if you're an unattractive actress, can you even win for losing?

I think the British get it right by ONLY casting really, really ugly people for every role on the BBC.


message 29: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
As I've said, this is my first time reading Irving. For the people who've read some of his other stuff before, is the constant identifier thing in the dialog something he does often or peculiar to this book? Random example (italics mine):

"Shut up!" Arbeiter snapped at her. "Go get pregnant again," he said to her. "Go get another abortion. Go get some Schlagobers," he abused her.

I'm not sure if it's becoming more pronounced as the narrative progresses or I'm just noticing it more, but I'm wondering if it serves some rhythmic purpose in this book or is just a quirk of Irving's style.


message 30: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Frankly, I can't remember whether he used a similar style in Owen Meany, the only other Irving I've read (it was about a decade ago.) I think the repetition very much serves a rhythmic purpose, though. It reminds me a lot of poetry.


message 31: by Jennifer (last edited Sep 24, 2012 07:08AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jennifer Rockwell (jenniferrockwell) I've read this one several times, and once, aloud with my husband. The first time I started it, however, I couldn't get past the first chapter with the bear and set it aside. I'd read and loved The World According to Garp, A Prayer for Owen Meany and The Cider House Rules, but this just seemed like an extreme extension of Irving's typical weirdness and I wasn't in the mood. A few years later I gave it a second chance though, and was swept off my feet.

The comparison’s been made before, but Irving's always reminded me of Dickens, in that he’s a great old school storyteller. His characters are quirky, but well developed and accessible, and often he manages to deal with social themes within the context of a kickin' narrative. That being said, while I enjoy his prose, and there are wonderfully evocative moments throughout his novels, I don't think he's a master stylist like Nabakov. I think Jason's right about some of the repetition, but I find that more with recurring themes, like Sorrow's repeated appearances, and less with his literary style. I will take another look though.

For me, The Hotel New Hampshire’s almost frenetic antics work. I find it profoundly moving, and it continues to raise more questions in me than it answers, about finding happiness in the midst of the madness. As an intro to Irving, Dave, it should be a wild ride. :) I never put a review of this one into my GR books, as I read it ages ago, but may use part of this post! haha.


message 32: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 2 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
I will be the oddly silent one this week. Maybe we should have Jen stand in for me? ;)


message 33: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
I'll have a bunch to say. This one got its hooks in and isn't letting go.

I think an interesting point of discussion could be comparing the Berrys to the Stampers, and our disparate reactions to each family. The Stampers seemed to be a family you got, Matt, whereas they left me pretty cold despite Kesey's dynamic writing style; the opposite seems to be true for this book. My heart broke 5 or 6 times reading Hotel, not the least of which was at the end when I finally had to say goodbye to the Berrys. It's just a family I get. I think that might make all the difference.


message 34: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
I wonder also if, as a reader, you either get on-board with some of Irving's stylistic choices (like repetition), and they actually strengthen your connection to the narrative and its themes, which it did for me, or you don't, and spend half of the book silently screaming "again, with this Sorrow shit?" over and over, as I suspect happened with Matt.


Robert (vernson) | 592 comments I must say that Irving has a certain accessibility to his work and I can understand why he would be a popular contemporary author who is "Hollywood" ready.

Despite this, he does broach some serious moments, such as mortality obviously with a quirky enthusiasm, and perhaps because of this, many people find Irving's work to be accessible. He's making light of a grave scenario.

Yes, this is my only Irving book that I have read, but I would compare it to the most brilliant pop music I've heard.


message 36: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
The subject of quirkiness in books, and how much is too much, is an interesting one for me. There are elements here that are obviously unusual, and could be called quirky: the taxidermy, a girl who lives as a bear, etc. In Irving's hands, however, all of it strikes me as accurate representations of the stranger side of real life, not over the top silliness.

There's a streak of verisimilitude running through everything, the recognizable heart of real-feeling human beings, that allows me to accept all of it almost without reservation (almost, because I wasn't too sure about the bear rape scene.)

I'm just as turned off by quirky for its own sake as anybody, a major reason why there's a whole sub-genre of film I can't stand. I just don't see it here.


message 37: by Jeppe (new)

Jeppe (jmulich) | 315 comments Jason wrote: "I'm just as turned off by quirky for its own sake as anybody, a major reason why there's a whole sub-genre of film I can't stand. I just don't see it here. "

Look at you bringing it back to our earlier Morrison discussion. Well done ;)


Robert (vernson) | 592 comments I guess I didn't see any of the quirky moments added simply for the sake of changing the emotive tone or ambience in any given plot point, or simply for the sake of being quirky. I agree with you that Irving was able to convince me that these moments were actually normal within the context of these particular characters' lives. And I guess that is part of Irving's brilliance.

How many people own a bear named after a state?
How many people toured the country on a motorcycle entertaining folks with the same bear?
How many folks convert an old school into a hotel?
How many folks have had their pet stuffed into a keepsake?

You get my point (did you like my Irvingian repetition?). Probably not too many people have shared these experiences, but Mr. Irving does master verisimilitude quite well.

So maybe I'm not using the term quirky properly, but I still feel it's apt.


message 39: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Yeah, I'd agree: There's two kinds of quirky. One is cute, inconsistent, and aggravating. The other is real enough that it just feels like weird people in a weird world, and the word "quirky" seldom, if ever, crosses my mind. For me, Twin Peaks falls under the latter category, and so does The Hotel New Hampshire.

It's funny that you mention this book as being "Hollywood-ready," Robert...as I mentioned earlier, this was made into a film within a few years of its being published, but the last thing I would consider this book on the surface is Hollywood-ready. Too weird, too subversive, too frank and sympathetic a portrayal of an incestuous relationship, among many other things. But, as you're reading it, you're right, it does kinda feel like a pop song of a novel, something kinda sweet and easy with twinges of darkness lacing the edges.


message 40: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (last edited Sep 28, 2012 09:55AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Jason wrote: "...or you don't, and spend half of the book silently screaming "again, with this Sorrow shit?" over and over, as I suspect happened with Matt."

B-I-N-G-O. Anybody want an unread copy of A Prayer for Owen Meany? :S


Dave wrote: "This one got its hooks in and isn't letting go."

Same here, but I'm picturing the end of Hellraiser. Midaq Alley, here we come! ;)


message 41: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
C-Word


Robert (vernson) | 592 comments Hahahaha!

Oh, Dave, those shiny nickels look good in/on you!


message 43: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Robert wrote: "So maybe I'm not using the term quirky properly, but I still feel it's apt."

I wasn't picking on your use of the word, Robert. It was a general observation, and also a reaction to Matt's comparison of Irving to Robbins, an author who (based on reading only one book, but still) I consider a writer of "quirky" fiction, negative connotation intact.

Matt wrote: "Anybody want an unread copy of A Prayer for Owen Meany?"

Dave, if you want to read more Irving, take him up on it. That was my first Irving, and I loved it.


message 44: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
We've already got a copy of that one or I'd take him up on it.


Robert (vernson) | 592 comments Ahem *cough* cough*.

Jason wrote: I wasn't picking on your use of the word, Robert. It was a general observation, and also a reaction to ..."

Oh, yeah, I get it. I wasn't trying to reactive defensively, I actually felt as if we were having a very healthy debate, sir!

No worries. (This is where I would insert some sort of "thumbs up" emoticon or something else appropriate.)


message 46: by Jim (last edited Sep 30, 2012 07:44PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 498 comments I'm barely halfway through HNH -- and hoping to finish before the podcast discussion is up -- so take this opinion with a grain or two of NaCl:

Count me on Team Matt.
The book is just so goddamned precious, yet seems to gloss over such horrors as incest, death, and rape both legitimate/forcible (with insincere apologies to Reps. Akin and RAyn) and statutory (fucking a 15-year-old was illegal in 1956 New Hampshire, was it not?). The focus remains on the characters' weird-ass foibles and bullshit wisdom. Life goes on, just with more dwarfs and bear rape than one might normally encounter.

I will grant that the book is written with considerable wit, and I like a lot of the characters, even some I don't like, if that makes any sense.

And while I do see what many of you like about the novel, I'm finding it too damn silly to take seriously, yet too serious to laugh at. Too many times while reading this, I've rolled my eyes or muttered "Jesus" -- not "Jesus God," just "Jesus" -- in exasperation.
It reads like a mediocre sitcom -- cue gasp, cue laughter, cue tears.

Nevertheless, reading this thread has been a pleasure. Looking forward to hearing and reading your further thoughts, and sharing mine when I've finished the book.


message 47: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 2 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Love you, Jim. Thanks for repping Team Matt. I think you should be incorporated into the name, though. Team Mim? Team Jatt?


message 48: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 2 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Screw you, Jason. Focus on the show.


message 49: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Keep passing the open windows, Matt.


message 50: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 2 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Jason wrote: "Keep passing the open windows, Matt."

Sorrow floats, Jason. Sorrow floats.


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