Wednesday, October 28, 2020

HOTEL DE DREAM by Edmund White

In a conversation about Jean Genet (on KCRW's "Bookworm" program), Edmund White described himself as a "minor novelist," and his late, short novel Hotel de Dream might have been written to prove this uniquely modest self-characterization. It's an interesting minor novel--not great, not even exceptionally well written, little more than an intriguing jeu of the literary imagination. When I heard that the Nabokov-praised author of Forgetting Elena, Nocturnes for the King of Naples, A Boy's Own Story, the definitive biography of Genet, a good brief life of Proust, and The Beautiful Room is Empty (my favorite of his novels) had written a novel on the topic of Stephen Crane's perhaps apocryphal male prostitute novella, my hyperliterary mind was intrigued. But another part of that mind suspected that Hotel de Dream would be what it is: yet another 'piggyback' novel in the imaginatively bereft subgenre Michael Cunningham made lucrative (with help from Nicole Kidman and a fake nose). This novel finds White doing Cunningham's already unoriginal thing. It's clever and interesting, but nothing more... For the real problem see below:

At age 51, I no longer have time to waste on books that don't blow my mind. Or at least breathe on it strongly enough to redden the coals.

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