From Publishers Weekly
Scrappy, satiric and frowsily exotic, this loosely constructed novel of debauchery and frustrated ambition in present-day Hawaii debunks the myth of the island as a vacationer's paradise. The episodic narrative is presided over by two protagonists: the unnamed narrator, a has-been writer who leaves the mainland to manage the seedy Hotel Honolulu, and raucous millionaire Buddy Hamstra, the hotel's owner and former manager, who fired himself to give the narrator his job. The narrator is at once amused and moved by Buddy, "a big, blaspheming, doggy-eyed man in drooping shorts," who is as reckless in his personal life as he is in his business dealings. He hires the writer despite his lack of qualifications, and the writer returns the favor in loyalty and affection, acting as witness to Buddy's flamboyant decline. As the hotel's manager, the writer comes to know a succession of downtrodden travelers and Hawaii residents, each more eccentric than the next. Typical are a wealthy lawyer whose amassed fortune does not bring him happiness; a past-her-prime gossip columnist involved in a love triangle with her bisexual son and her son's male lover; and a man who is obsessed with a woman he meets through the personals. Theroux, never one to tread lightly, often portrays native Hawaiians including the writer's wife as simpleminded, craven souls. But he is an equal-opportunity satirist, skewering all his characters except perhaps his alter-ego narrator and Leon Edel, the real-life biographer of Henry James, who makes an extended, unlikely cameo appearance. The lack of conventional plot and the dreariness of life at Hotel Honolulu make the narrative drag at times, but Theroux's ear and eye are as sharp as ever, his prose as clean and supple. (May)Forecast: A nine-city author tour kicks off a promotional blitz for Hotel Honolulu, which includes a sweepstakes with a trip to Hawaii as prize. More carefully worked than Kowloon Tong, Theroux's last novel, and more familiar in setting, this may be one of the part-time Hawaii resident's better selling efforts.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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From Library Journal
A blocked writer seeking clarity and an escape from the life of the mind accepts a job as manager of a low-rent Hawaiian hotel, and his detailing of the denizens within the hotel community illustrate the old adage "Everyone has a story." Readers who know Theroux's fiction (e.g., Kowloon Tong) may not be surprised that many of the tales deal with the mystery and obsession with sex, and the author composes a good number of sad and twisted variations on love and lust, often found fleetingly. Though there is much sordidness here, Theroux skillfully portions out doses of humor, tenderness, and humanity, often with the turn of a phrase, as in the tale of two limping waiters or of a Filipino bride's deliverance to a relatively better position in life. By the time the reader navigates through these 80 snapshots of peoples' lives, a sense of this unnamed writer's shared experience becomes real. A most impressive and compulsively readable novel; highly recommended.- Marc Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., PA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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