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Hotel Honolulu [Paperback]

Paul Theroux
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 16.04
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Book Description

May 15 2002
In this wickedly satiric romp, Paul Theroux captures the essence of Hawaii as it has never been depicted. The novel's narrator, a down-on-his-luck writer, escapes to Waikiki and soon finds himself the manager of the Hotel Honolulu, a low-rent establishment a few blocks off the beach. Honeymooners, vacationers, wanderers, mythomaniacs, soldiers, and families all check in to the hotel. Like the Canterbury pilgrims, every guest has come in search of something -- sun, love, happiness, objects of unnameable longing -- and everyone has a story. By turns hilarious, ribald, tender, and tragic, HOTEL HONOLULU offers a unique glimpse of the psychological landscape of an American paradise.

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Product Description

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.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Every guest at this hotel has a story, and we get to hear them all including that of the new manager, a down-on-his-luck kind of guy whose life is taken over by his job.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
NOTHING TO ME is so erotic as a hotel room, and therefore so penetrated with life and death. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific novel Oct. 21 2003
By David P
Format:Hardcover
This is without doubt one of the finest novels I've read in recent years. Wickely funny at times, but also a painfully correct portrayal of middle-aged uncertainty.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Sounds like the hotel I stayed in Oct. 21 2003
Format:Paperback
When I went to Hawai'i I hadn't yet read this book. I got home and picked it up to read. Now that I've read it I'm glad I got to go to visit first. I have reflected on the stories Theroux tells and I am able to appreciate Honolulu in a way I probably couldn't while I was there. I recognized so many of the people Theroux described and saw myself in them as well. I had to wonder how much of this novel was really fictional; it was far too easy to imagine that these things had happened. (Especially after getting to know some of the people who do live in Honolulu.)
Having grown up near a tourist destination this book give me an appreciation for those who have to deal with tourists for a living; it also gave me several insights into the human condition.
I would hand this book to anyone who is planning to travel (and not just to Hawai'i).
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4.0 out of 5 stars Hotel Honolulu July 16 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This was a very enjoyable collection of short stories about some very interesting characters that lived, worked, or visited a cheap hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii. It sounded so believable, that it made you wonder how much of it is fact and how much is fiction.
The characters varied from local eccentrics to visiting scholars, who decided to become locals. It gave the reader an inside view of what some of the locals and tourists could possibly be like.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Take me to Waikiki July 10 2003
Format:Paperback
Hotel Honolulu contains some of the best writing I have ever read -- Theroux masterfully depicts the humorous events that occur within (and around) a past-its-prime Waikiki hotel, as observed by the book's narrarator. The novel is sort of a series of vignettes about the vacationers who briefly inhabit the world of this second-tier hotel, as well as the locals associated with the hotel (gardners, housekeepers, etc.).
The problem, for me, is that the narrarator tends to be extremely condescending when describing many of the characters in the book, particularly the Hawaiian natives. The narrarator depicts most of the natives, including his wife, as ignorant and simple people. I found the "vignettes" focusing on this ignorance to be insulting, at best.
That being said, I am glad I read the book. If you can get past the author's condescension, this is a wonderful book full of rich characters.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An extra ordinary "people watching" book May 22 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book gives you an insight in people, the fact that it is in Waikiki just puts the atmosphere in the right direction.
Theroux is an ecellent writer and describer of people. I enjoyed the reading very much.
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Format:Paperback
The establishment in HOTEL HONOLULU has 80 rooms and the book has 80 chapters, one for each room. But it doesn't work out to 80 different stories; they're all intertwined -- some more so than others. The book is filled with bizarre, eccentric characters and a LOT of unpleasantness and distasteful stuff. I enjoyed the later pages much more, as Theroux got more philosophical: "It seemed to me that Peewee was there to remind me that my father was not dead. Seeing my father in him, I grieved less, and I saw that even here in Hawaii -- older and far from home -- I was still a part of some great cycle and my father was nearby. It helped me to see my father in him; it calmed me; it eased my pain."
Here -- take a trip: "It was one of those brilliant orchidaceous days on the North Shore of Oahu, under the towering palms. A silky breeze lisped through the needles of the ironwoods edging Sunset Beach. The cliffs behind us were as dark and leafy as spinach. ... Down at the beach, a man was casting into the surf, working his fishing rod like a coach whip. The breeze carried a scent of flowers." I thought reading the book might be a fun vacation, but it wasn't so much fun as thought-provoking. But it was fun, too.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best novel I have read in a year or two. Jan. 7 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I have read most of what Paul Theroux has written including many of his short stories. I consider this to be his best work. I felt inspired and stimulated by the book. But maybe I only enjoyed the book as much as I did because I have recently moved to Hawaii myself? Still I think for Paul Theroux fans in particular this is a must read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best novel I have read in a year or two. Jan. 7 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I have read most of what Paul Theroux has written including many of his short stories. I consider this to be his best work. I felt inspired and stimulated by the book. But maybe I only enjoyed the book as much as I did because I have recently moved to Hawaii myself? Still I think for Paul Theroux fans in particular this is a must read.
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