Monday, June 18, 2007

Book Review - Hotel World

While I browsed the stacks of a newly accessible library, Hotel World peeked out at me from a shelf of PRs (British Literature, for those not in the LC call number know), looking pertly pink and new in its clear coated wrappings. A skim of the back cover revealed five female characters intersecting at one point, and the fact that Ali Smith's latest work was a finalist for the Booker Prize. Intriguing enough.

Now, from a backwards point of view, I feel fooled. The characters never developed into characters; they remained self-contained conversations to the author's self, with different names and situations substituted. Written in a stream-of-consciousness style (not to be confused with a certain pop-tart's futile flailings at the keyboard), Hotel World narrates a scene in a hotel, the Global Hotel, from five different viewpoints: a guest, a worker, a former worker who died there, the dead woman's sister, and a transient. They all appear thoroughly depressed, and though they have somewhat differing traits (employment, reasons for being at the hotel), it became difficult to separate each chapter's narrator from the previous one. Lack of punctuation and grammar structure are the main tools that Smith uses to "personalize" the narrative, but it ends up dragging the reader through the mire, puzzling as to where direct objects are in fact direct objects and not the subject of a run-on sentence, say.

The concept of the book reminds me most of the Simpsons episode in which the same ten minute sequence is repeated from the point of view of a different family member, finally ending with Lisa presenting Homer's severed finger reattachment as her science project. Except the Simpsons, being visual, is much easier to understand. It is an interesting concept, and had it more structure or explanation, it might have been more worthwhile.

Two and a half stars (out of five)

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