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The Motel Life: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – Bargain Price, April 24, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
In a gritty debut, Vlautin explores a few weeks in the broken lives of two working-class brothers, Frank and Jerry Lee Flannigan, who abruptly ditch their Reno motel after Jerry Lee drunkenly kills a boy on a bicycle in a hit-and-run. The two are case studies in hard luck: their mother died when they were 14 and 16, respectively; their father is an ex-con deadbeat; neither finished high school. Frank has had just one girlfriend, motel neighbor Annie, whose mother is an abusive prostitute. An innocent simpleton, Jerry Lee is left feeling suicidal after the accident, despite his younger brother's efforts (à la Of Mice and Men's Lenny and George) to console him: "It was real quiet, the way he cried," says Frank, "like he was whimpering." On returning to Reno, an eventual reckoning awaits them. Vlautin's coiled, poetically matter-of-fact prose calls to mind S.E. Hinton—a writer well-acquainted with male misfit protagonists seeking redemption, no matter how destructive. Despite the bleak story and its inevitably tragic ending, Vlautin, who plays in the alt-country band Richmond Fontaine, transmits a quiet sense of resilience and hopefulness. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Author Vlautin, a member of the critically acclaimed alt-country band Richmond Fontaine, has crafted a beautifully artless first novel. It tells the story of Frank and Jerry Lee Flannigan, who are on the run because of a hit-run-and-run accident in which Jerry Lee was involved. Eschewing compound sentences and even similes, Vlautin illuminates the lives of two decent young men from Reno who have been dealt a very bad hand; their mother died when they were teens, and their father, a thief and an inveterate gambler, left years before. They live in down-at-the-heels motels, drink too much, and work at dead-end jobs. Jerry Lee is a self-described "loser"--but with a conscience. He fails at suicide occasioned by grief, but Frank is there, inventing naive stories to keep him going. It's as ineffably sad as a lyric by Willie Nelson, but it's also a richly compassionate and sweetly sad meditation on what Billy Clyde Puckett in Dan Jenkins' Semi-Tough (1972) called "life itsownself." If there's any justice, anywhere, The Motel Life will be widely read and widely admired. Thomas Gaughan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
Willy Vlautin can write. And write. And win awards. And write. And grab you by your heart and soul and suck you into his books so well that you become a part of them. He can write and bring you to tears. He is full of compassion, emotion, takes characters who are so downtrodden there is no way up for them -- yet, yet, he brings so much hope into his writing. I LOVE Vlautin.
We meet the Flannigan brothers, Frank and Jerry Lee. They are two young men who are down on their luck, can't hold jobs, love to drink, and have a talent for attracting trouble. If it weren't for bad luck they would have no luck at all. They are basically good people who just can't catch a break.
On the back cover we read -- "I knew then, that morning, when I saw the kid's frozen arms in the back of the car that bad luck had found my brother and me. And us, we took the bad luck and strapped it around our feet like concrete. We did the worst imaginable thing you could do. We ran away."
Thus begins the biggest little adventure you will read. Brothers Jerry Lee and Frank run from their problems/troubles and fall in to even more complex problems. Vlautin takes you along for the ride; meeting down to earth characters you will remember for a long time, helping others even though they themselves need help, and giving readers a front seat tour of Reno.
The story is simple and the reading is divine. Vlautin really knows how to get inside his characters heads and makes you feel as if you know them also. The story line is fast paced and full of surprises along the way. The events that take place are believable and entertaining. I just read the last word of this book and am missing Frank and Jerry Lee already; they have been a big part of my life for the past few days.
This is a book I will recommend to all and remember forever. Vlautin is like that -- he makes you remember what he has written. I have also read LEAN ON PETE, THE FREE, and now MOTEL LIFE. I only have NORTHLINE left to read. I am praying Vlautin releases a new book soon.
At the end of this book is a section about the author, a section called A TOUR OF THE FLANNIGAN BROTHERS' RENO, and a nice write up regarding the illustrator, Nate Beaty. Willy Vlautin is also a song writer and a major member of the band RICHMOND FONTAINE. There are song lyrics included also.
I have to say that Willy Vlautin is easily one of my favorite authors and I recommend his work to all. His writing is passionate, hard, kind, rough, wonderful, and sad. Roll all of that together and you are going to agree -- he is one of the best around.
After I finished The Free , I immediately purchased all of the Vlautin books I didn't have and I figured I'd start at the beginning.
The phrase, "The Motel Life" is one that means defeatist. It means unlucky. It's not the American dream, but the American reality for many people. For the brotherly protagonists, Frank and Jerry Lee, it means defeat before you ever had a chance. This defeat follows them all through the book. For Frank, it's his love for Annie, and her betrayal. For Jerry Lee, the loss of his leg inhibits him when in fact he's a really great artist. After the novel ended, I thought about how Jerry Lee would have made a great comic artist. Frank could have been a great writer in his own right and IS by the last words of the novel. Frank's stories are one of the many coping devices used to get them by and the only one that has no bad effects. The money has a tendency to run out, and the alcohol will eventually kill you, but the stories remain.
The third major character of the book is Reno, Nevada itself. While some locations in the book are fictional, the majority are real. While Reno is known as "the biggest little city in the world," Vlautin actually makes Reno feel like a small town.
Vlautin's greatest achievement throughout The Motel Life is how real he makes these characters. How the story comes to be and the illustrations that mark the beginning of each new chapter; this is their story, Jerry Lee and Frank's, and it's a damn good one.
He dedicates the book to an alcohol rehab counselor which is highly appropriate. Interesting for Reno or even Nevada readers although the upwardly mobile will reject and deny Vlautin's view of their biggest little city.
A good read for Bukowski fans -- connoiseurs of lowlife.
The illustrations by Nate Beaty are great. The marvelous thing about them is that they are just crude little black and white sketches but they absolutely capture and enhance the atmosphere of the story.