Another Irving book. I swore not to read any more after Until I Find You. Needless to say that I didn’t like that one very much. I find that some of Irving’s books (not all of them… wait, yes, actually all of them) are just an exercise in collecting weird characters with weird jobs and weird fetishes. It’s okay, if you do it right, after all I loved The World According to Garp, and the people in that one are about as cockoo as you can get, but sometimes it just gets in the way of the story. Like in The Hotel New Hampshire.
Now, to be fair, it is a lot better than Until I Find You, where I had to restrain myself from making a lot of black and white confetti fifty pages in. (I read the whole book in the end, god knows how I managed AND stayed sane. It doesn’t get better. Not. One. Jot.)
The Hotel New Hampshire seems to constantly be balanceing between falling off the edge of a very high cliff with spiky rocks at the bottom, pulled by the weight of cliché accumulated by its characters and staying on top of the ridge, anchored there by Sorrow. (If you read the book you’ll know what I mean. Almost all the beautiful scenes in the book are connected to Sorrow. Sorrow and State-of-Maine.)
And the book actually has many good things about it. Old friends die heroically. Parents seem to regress into children. Dwarfs try to grow. Rapists get raped. Bears transform into humans. And most of all, one of the most prominent sentiments in the book: Sorrow floats.
I’m built close to the water, as we say in Germany, meaning that it is easy to move me to tears, but even I found that the ending of The Hotel New Hampshire was extraordinarily touching.
Now imagine that I found it extraordinairily touching DESPITE all the crap that the reader is made to swallow before that.
Irving loves his wacky characters. And he loves to have a lot of them. In the last two books that I read this almost made me swear off Irving forever.
And in the Hotel? Well, it’s pretty thick. Whores, radicals, communists, radical communists, bombs, opera, circuses, dwarfs, pet-bears, fake-bears, fake orgasms, lesbians and gays, rapists, weight-lifters, stuffed dogs, plane crashes, hostages, day-dreamers, more rape victims than you care to count: You name it, the hotel got it.
It’s just a little too much. It suffocates the story at times. At other times you will just put the book down and ask: why am I doing this to myself?
Me? Well, I’m a bit of a masochist when it comes to books. Finish what you start, is my first commandment. I tend to think that things will get better, just after the next page. Often they don’t. Often I know that. I those cases I at least want to be able to make an informed decision on how bad the book in question is. This lamentable habit has cost me quite a few precious hours over the years. The only book I ever put down I regret having done so, The Stand by Stephen King, but that’s nothing that can’t be remedied.
Anyway, the bottom line is that despite all the sex, and the rape and the general nauseating over-the-top-ness of The Hotel New Hampshire I am very happy that I did not put it down. At least not for long.
Hope floats too, I guess.