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Part I. Hotel Haunting 1. Hotel Haunting Part II. Fragments from a Hysterical Suitcase 2. Hotel Freud 3. Marriage Postcards 4. Hometel 5. Hotel Diary 6. In A German Pension 7. The Talking Cure 8. Hotel Marx 9. Postcards from 26 Hotels Notes Acknowledgements Index
A lyrical, inventive, and witty look at the ways in which the hotel is the necessary complement, the flip side, of home, and how the alienated state of being in a hotel can be a welcome alternative to the demands of the hyper-connected, instantly personal modern world.
Joanna Walsh is a writer based in England. Her work has been published by Granta, Dalkey (Best European Fiction 2015), Salt (Best British Short Stories 2014 and 2015), Tate, and others. Her books include Fractals (2013), and Vertigo (The Dorothy Project, 2015). She reviews for The Guardian, The New Statesman, and The National (UAE). She is fiction editor at 3:AM Magazine, and runs #readwomen, described by the New York Times as "a rallying cry for equal treatment for women writers." She is also an illustrator.
Walsh's writing has intellectual rigour and bags of formal bravery ... Hotel is a boldly intellectual work that repays careful reading. Its semiotic wordplay, circling prose and experimental form may prove a refined taste, but in its deft delineation of a complex modern phenomenon - and, perhaps, a modern malaise - it's a great success. * Financial Times * [A] slyly humorous and clever little book ... [Walsh moves] effortlessly and imaginatively from one thing to the next ... with utter conviction in each step. I loved Hotel and would read it again. -- Marina Benjamin * New Statesman * A slim, sharp meditation on hotels and desire. ... Walsh invokes everyone from Freud to Forster to Mae West to the Marx Brothers. She's funny throughout, even as she documents the dissolution of her marriage and the peculiar brand of alienation on offer in lavish place. * The Paris Review * Evocative ... Walsh's strange, probing book is all the more affecting for eschewing easy resolution. * Publishers Weekly * Joanna Walsh is fast becoming one of our most important writers. Hotel is a dazzling tour de force of embodied ideas. * Deborah Levy, author of Black Vodka * Subtle and intriguing, this small book is an adventure in form. Part meditation on hotels, it mingles autobiography and reflections on home, secrets, and partings. Freud, Dora, Heidegger, and the Marx Brothers all have their moments on its small, intensely evocative stage. * Lisa Appignanesi, author of Trials of Passion * Featured in The Literary Hub * The Literary Hub * [Walsh] is the author of a short book in Bloomsbury's Object Lessons series called Hotel. With Heidegger, Freud, and Greta Garbo as touchpoints, the pieces use details from her job reviewing hotels and her unraveling marriage to meditate on desire, aphonia, immobility, and isolation. [T]he book is driven by an intense self-consciousness, but perhaps because it doesn't need to make even a gesture toward fiction, there's more linguistic play in here, more aphorisms you want to copy onto a postcard and send to your unhappiest smart friend. * Darcie Dennigan, The Rumpus * Walsh has been praised to the skies by Chris Kraus and Jeff Vandermeer, and it isn't hard to see why. Her writing sways between the tense and the absurd, as if it's hovering between this world and another. -- Jonathan Sturgeon * Flavorwire * Object Lessons is `an essay and book series on the hidden lives of everyday things' which takes quotidian objects as a starting point for analysis. ... Hotel joins other intriguing, minimalist non-fiction titles such as Remote Control, Silence, and Phone Booth. Part personal reflection, part semiotic and symbolic interrogation, Hotel takes on a playful format. ... Alongside the intelligent analysis and playful structure, Joanna Walsh captures something innately surreal and peculiar about hotels. * Glasgow Review of Books * Walsh brings together autobiographical experience and reflection ... [to] illuminate aspects of the experience of the hotel: from Freud to Groucho Marx, from Mae West to Heidegger. * Corriere della Sera (Bloomsbury translation) * Writer Joanna Walsh, after the collapse of her marriage, became a hotel reviewer. She recounts the experience of staying in and reviewing hotels in Hotel, published by Bloomsbury's Object Lessons series. ... The hotel stands in for what should be, or simply what was, but is no longer. `A hotel sets itself apart from home and, in doing so, proves rather than denies home's existence,' Walsh writes. Ruminating on what went wrong in her marriage, she realizes at its center is the idea of what makes something - or someone - a home. * Jessica Ferri, Barnes and Noble Review * It's a knock out. Completely engaging, juicy and dry-such a great book. * Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick * Hotel, part of Bloomsbury's Object Lessons series about "the hidden lives of ordinary things" (other books are about everything from dust to shipping containers and refrigerators)... is a clean, almost geometric work, the breakdown of the personal sphere encased in the sanitised environment of the hotel.... Such descriptions may make Walsh's work seem overly theoretical, which would belie the pleasures that can be found in virtually every sentence. One of the singular joys in Walsh's prose is how she questions and twists language systems until familiar words and expressions become uncanny, portals to a stranger world... * Agri Ismail, Minor Literature[s] * Object Lessons is `an essay and book series on the hidden lives of everyday things' which takes quotidian objects as a starting point for analysis. ... Hotel joins other intriguing, minimalist non-fiction titles such as Remote Control, Silence, and Phone Booth. Part personal reflection, part semiotic and symbolic interrogation, Hotel takes on a playful format. ... Alongside the intelligent analysis and playful structure, Joanna Walsh captures something innately surreal and peculiar about hotels. -- Laura Waddell * Glasgow Review of Books * ...For all the apparent personal revelations, the bond we form with [Walsh's] persona remains profoundly casual, bound only by the time and space delimited by the number of hours, days, and nights we spend with her Hotel. The book takes the form of a series of snatched conversations in and around hotels with characters fictionalized from Freud, the Marx Brothers, and the cast of Grand Hotel (1932). Walsh disappears or retreats into this series of disconnected texts, postcards, and overheard conversations. Ultimately the lesson resides in this combination of intimacy and distance, of narrative lack and narrative fantasy, as constituted by the hotel, an object, symbolized best by the revolving door of Grand Hotel. `Grand Hotel ... always the same,' opines Dr. Otternschlag. `People come, people go. Nothing ever happens.' -- Julian Yates * Los Angeles Review of Books * Part of Bloomsbury's Object Lessons - a series of books about the hidden lives of ordinary things - Hotel by Joanna Walsh defies genre categories, much like Walsh herself. ... Just as Hotel defies genre in its moving between essay, meditation and memoir, its subtle and slippery content can't be contained in a single review. Each reader will take something different from it, relate to a different experience or nod to a different allusion. Hotel is a clever little book that packs a punch, and Walsh is a writer whose sparse prose and contained voice endlessly surprises. -- Sian Norris * openDemocracy 50.50 Magazine * It feels like something you want to endlessly quote: sharp, knowing, casually erudite... there is power and an affecting gravitas in what Walsh does with detail. The actual operates in the book as lonely gesture, deprived of the clammy self-revelation that a lesser writer might emphasise in a desperate bid to hold the reader's attention. Instead, we sift the fragments through other fragments: as sharp as her riffs on Freud and Heidegger are (and she's calmly mocking and irreverent at times too, which helps) what a reader truly returns to is a more open, personal writing... It's a formal victory, an accurate rendering of a scattered emotional state. -- Adam Rivett * Sydney Review of Books * Hotel ... is essentially a memoir in the context of visits made to hotels by a reviewer who is at that time undergoing a personal marital breakdown. Many thoughts about the distinctions between hotel and home arise and are investigated, at the same time as an examination of Freudian theory. ... These seemingly separate areas within the text of Hotel are blended together smoothly, to illuminate their connection, or sometimes are discordant and sharply juxtaposed. -- Jay Merill * Berfrois * Underneath Walsh's clever wit and wordplay is a vein of melancholy that runs through the book. ... Hotel...does not endeavor to explore all facets of hotel life. For instance, Walsh has little to say about hotel staff and writes sparingly about the decor; rather, she tells us what a hotel isn't. Walsh mixes travel writing, pop culture, and personal narrative to great effect to underscore her own discontent. * San Diego City Beat * Object Lessons' describes themselves as `short, beautiful books,' and to that, I'll say, amen. ... [I]t is in this simplicity that we find insight and even beauty. ... Hotel by Joanna Walsh is essentially a memoir as she escapes to hotels as a way to avoid a failing marriage and contemplates who we are and what we do in these dwellings that are not `home.' ... If you read enough `Object Lessons' books, you'll fill your head with plenty of trivia to amaze and annoy your friends and loved ones - caution recommended on pontificating on the objects surrounding you. More importantly, though, in the tradition of McPhee's Oranges, they inspire us to take a second look at parts of the everyday that we've taken for granted. These are not so much lessons about the objects themselves, but opportunities for self-reflection and storytelling. They remind us that we are surrounded by a wondrous world, as long as we care to look. * Chicago Tribune * Haunting and meditative: more about moods than about facts. * Book Riot *