THE GRAND HOTELS (OF JOSEPH CORNELL)

Robert Coover, Author . Burning Deck $40 (64p) ISBN 978-1-886224-50-6 ISBN 1-886224-52-8

"Although childhood is the source and model of all architecture, grand hotels included, the Grand Hotel Nymphlight is the only one known to be specifically devoted to 'the child within,' as the hotel brochure puts it." The grand hotels that Coover, best known as a trailblazing fiction writer and proselyte of hypertext, describes in this small book of prose poems belong to the "hotel" series by the American dioramist Joseph Cornell, making this book a set of brochures to the marvelous. The Grand Hotel Night Air Balloon ("originally designed as a colorful hot air balloon") boasts a lobby filled with caged tropical birds, a musical fountain and rooms without walls, all enveloped in a "blue haze" recalling helium. The Grand Hotel Nymphlight temporarily transforms its residents into innocent, joyful childhood versions of themselves, "while yet knowing what one knows as an adult," and The Grand Hotel Sand Fountain, a "hotel of brief encounters," provides the ultimate therapy for the alienated wallflower, never permitting anyone do anything alone—opening a door, riding an elevator—except leave. Coover, with magnificent simplicity, orchestrates countering strands of pathos and wonder, decadence and innocent glee, in these 10 short chapters that are sure to make anyone permanently dissatisfied with the run-down bed-and-breakfast we call planet Earth. (May)

Forecast:Coover is classed with John Barth and Donald Barthelme as a fiction writer, and is particularly well read on campus. A creative display might feature this small press book, Utopia Parkway (a semi-recent biography of Cornell) and Grand Hotels, a smart and heavily illustrated architectural history by Elaine Denby covering the international luxe life of the 1830s–1930s (Reaktion [Consortium, dist.], $35 paper 304p ISBN 1-86189-121-0; June).

Reviewed on: 05/27/2002
Release date: 01/01/2002
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