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Hotel Honolulu [Paperback]

Paul Theroux
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
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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)
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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
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 An absolutely delightful read ! Nov. 7 2002
By A Customer
"Hotel Honolulu" is just the book to take along on your holidays. It's light and breezy, silly and fun, with just a touch of sadness at its centre. The book overflows with whacky characters, all with bags of tricks up their sleeves to split your sides over and over again. Just when you think Theroux may have topped himself, he floors you with yet another with scarcely a breather in between. This is Theroux at his best.
Buddy Hamstra is an unlikely hero. He is a slob, unscrupulous, lacks a conscience, drinks and flirts too much and embodies all of mankind's most common frailties. In short, he's absurd but also thoroughly unforgettable. The narrator, a retired writer and Theroux's alter ego, is never just the passive observer. He is very much a part of the action and takes centrestage when he betrays feelings of jealousy when his wife's ex-lovers show up. The premise that his native wife (Sweetie) may be John John K's half-sibling is a hoot.
If the novel has one failing, it may be that it has packed in far too many transient characters who make a quick appearance, then exit, never to return to the pages again. Some of these characters could have been excised without any loss of coherence. In fact, it could have given the novel a tighter and more disciplined structure. Another thing. Some readers may be offended by Theroux's caricatures of the Polynesian natives and their customs but - seriously - how can you take offence when he's taking a dig at just about anybody on two legs ?
"Hotel Honolulu" is an absolutely delightful read. Definitely one for the road.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Another Plunge into Condescension Oct. 15 2002
By Rick
Once again our "dear friend" makes superficial forays into others' cultures. If you can get passed his stock characterization and stereotyping of various Hawaiian ethnic groups, you might find something to salvage in the local color presented in this novel. As one who has lived in Honolulu, I can just imagine what they're saying about this book at UH right now. I'm not one to eagerly jump on the PC bandwagon, but this book will certainly bring it rolling down Ka'piolani Blvd. You'd think he'd have learned from his patronizing posture in "Riding the Red Rooster," where the Chinese are merely dirty peasants. Or from his flop, "Kowloon Tong," which in its film version (e.g. "Chinese Box") was poorly received at its world premiere at the Hawaii Theatre. At that gathering, Theroux tried to distance himself from the production, which was amusing. You'd also think he'd learned a lesson or two from Lois Ann Yamanaka's debacle with "Blu's Hanging" and thereby tried to resist the urge to caricature Filipino Americans in the islands as over-sexed, perverted or otherwise maladjusted. Yes, and we need that anal-retentive Japanese American and, of course, the sluggish, slow-witted Hawaiian. Please, Mr. Paul, spare us more of this rubbish in the future and fix your otherwise keen traveler's eyes on something you really know about.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Going to Hawaii? Aug. 8 2002
By Tammy
The main character, who I don't think I ever learned his name, is a down on his luck writer who heads off to Hawaii to run away from his writing and to find a new life. He ends up meeting the owner of the Hotel Honolulu and gets the job of managing that hotel. The story really revolves around hotel guests, the owner, Buddy, and his friends and family. The writer/main character simply records the stories. When there is no Buddy involved, there is usually no story. I chose this book simply because I was off to Hawaii myself and wanted something for the long plane ride to and from the paradise islands. Part of the reason why I enjoyed this book was because of the places the author references that I recognized from my trip to Oahu. Having never read Theroux's work I wasn't sure if this book was actually a memoir. There were several times in the beginning where the writer/main character would go into these long spiels quoting different books and basically boring me to tears. When buddy's friends become involved the story really picks up. Most of the stories are sad involving death, suicide, abuse, and mistreating but the author states plainly that it is more difficult to write the happy story. The main character's small daughter sums it all up in the end when she states that all happy stories are the same but unhappy stories are all different. This collection of pretty sad stories is unique in that some of the characters are connected in some pretty bizarre ways. You find yourself starting each new chapter wondering who this person is and how they're connected to the characters you already know. There were a few times when I wasn't happy with how the author had ended a chapter, just leaving a blunt statement about the person's fate, which most of the time wasn't pleasant. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific novel
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.
Published on Oct. 21 2003 by David P
4.0 out of 5 stars Sounds like the hotel I stayed in
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. Read more
Published on Oct. 21 2003 by L. Carroll
5.0 out of 5 stars Got it Right!
First! This book is really funny!! Second; I agree with all of what the previous reviewer, Linda had to say and I would like to add this: I think I am a bit of an authority on the... Read more
Published on Aug. 14 2003 by James W. Campbell
4.0 out of 5 stars Hotel Honolulu
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. Read more
Published on July 16 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Take me to Waikiki
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,... Read more
Published on July 10 2003 by VEBA Las Vegas
4.0 out of 5 stars An extra ordinary "people watching" book
This book gives you an insight in people, the fact that it is in Waikiki just puts the atmosphere in the right direction. Read more
Published on May 22 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars The best novel I have read in a year or two.
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. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars The best novel I have read in a year or two.
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. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars "Hotel Honolulu"
This book is written very much is the quasi-memoir form of Theroux's "My Other Life," and, just like the aforesaid mentioned titled, it works. Read more
Published on Oct. 2 2002 by Ryan
1.0 out of 5 stars dull
i did not care for this book. i did not learn anything about hawai. the charecters were not very nice eithir.it just seemed kind of dull.
Published on Sept. 29 2002
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