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Hotel Honolulu Paperback – May 15 2002

3.8 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Paperback, May 15 2002
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99 by Wayne Gretzky 99 by Wayne Gretzky

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (May 15 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618219153
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618219155
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.7 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #487,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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

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

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Maybe the problem was that I was mislead by the book jacket into expecting a novel. It isn't, at least not in the conventional sense. It is a collection of related stories surrounding the well-worn Hotel Honolulu. Had I read it as short stories, one story at a time, rather than as a novel to be devoured at one time, I expect I would have enjoyed it much more.
The most problematic aspect of the book is that each story is about five pages long. The first one or two page gives all of the background, the story develops, then there is inevitably an O'Henry ending in the last paragraph. However, since these stories are all linked together as a pseudo-novel, the background is repitition, often word-for-word, of events that happened only on the previous page. The characeters and their histories are constantly being summarized so that we hear the one-paragraph description of them over and over again while rarely getting below the surface. For those stories which run longer than five pages, the narration ends abruptly, then its starts again as a new story, with a summary of the past story taking up the whole first page.
By the end, it starts to pull together and turn into more of a novel, but Theroux really needed to decide if these were short stories or a novel and edit it one way or another.
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Format: Hardcover
Paul Theroux loves to play the intelligent, uninvolved raconteur, the perpetual, if distant, visitor. In his inimical style of episodic narration he tells the stories of those characters he meets, or he writes his fantasies about them (read sexual). In Hotel Honolulu he continues the witty, winking entertainment he began in his fictional autobiographies My Secret History and My Other Life, all viewed from his superior stance. Now that he is transplanted from England to Hawaii, the flavor is Polynesian, but the sly, voyeuristic prose the same. No other autor carries the reader along so effortlessly, so superbly, and on such a smooth amusement ride. No literati populate this world, however, a world of prostitutes, con men, complainers, and calculating crones.
If readers are hoping for plot, try Theroux's masterful sci-fi story O-Zone, or the bizarre sexual deviant thriller Chicago Loop, ore even the anti-establishment raves Milroy the Magician or Mosquito Coast. Discover Paul Theroux, a truly great writer, a mastermid who can take his reader on a funfilled ride of literary loops and thrills that leave you breathless at the feats of prose prowess and always wanting more.
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Format: Hardcover
Paul Theroux writing on autopilot is still better than many other authors at the top of their form. His well-known ability to describe a place or person in just a few perfect words, his creation of believable characters with clear motivations, his ironic detachment as these same characters mess up their lives, and his depiction of a writer's battle with the demons of his craft are among his many brilliant qualities, all on vibrant display here.
Ultimately, however, this novel was a disappointment to me. Set in a 3rd-rate hotel in Honolulu, it has the characters and setting of a novel (and is called a novel on the cover), but it is so lacking in any sort of unifying plot, that it's not even possible to write a plot summary. The huge cast of characters has only one thing in common--they all live and/or work at the Hotel Honolulu. While some characters are complete enough that they could have been worked into a wonderful collection of short stories, others are seen only in tiny, three- or four-page vignettes and add nothing significant. Very much like the author, the narrator is a writer who has had a failed marriage and difficult divorce in England and who has come to Hawaii hoping to escape his bad memories and the pressures of the writing life. He likes Hawaii "because it [is] a void"--almost no one recognizes his name, and those who do have not read his books. He works as the manager of the Hotel Honolulu.
Distressingly, this fragmented book is shockingly mean-spirited in tone, going way beyond good-humored satire, and demeaning almost every aspect of Hawaii, its people, and its culture, while also taking pokes at some American icons. Virtually every woman in the book either is or has been a prostitute. All are dimwits.
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Format: Hardcover
Paul Theroux is the perpetual ex-pat, the outsider peering in, even in his own country. I suspect that the episodic novel "Hotel Honolulu", a "Ship of Fools" of the landed, is his story as much as his characters'.
I was first attracted to Theroux's writings in the 70s after I read that he was a former Africa PCV, which I was also (I've often wondered if there's life after the Peace Corps). Over the years I've read almost everything he's written, and have enjoyed his ironic, detached style. His travel books and short stories are, in my opinion, better than his novels. I've heard him speak on book tours in the past, and though I was entertained and informed by his anecdotes, I was off put by his faux Brit patina, which he may have shed by now since he no longer lives in London. Theroux is, after all, an elitist, but a savvy one, as his regular readers can attest.
"Hotel Honolulu" was especially fun to read because I used to live in an apartment building on Kuhio in Waikiki, near his fictional hotel. And although his Waikiki is not quite what I remember, nor are most of his characters people I ran into regularly, being able to recognize some of the landmarks (like Foodland) and Whyee "types", and reminisce about that crazy period in my life gave the novel more meaning for me.
Other reviewers have described details of the book, so I won't go into that. I will only say that his writing skills have improved to the extent that I don't know if Theroux can get much better. I remember reading "Waldo" and "Fong and the Indians" decades ago and thinking them amateurish. But he's long past that, and I look forward to his next offering.
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