The Voyeur's Motel

Gay Talese. Grove, $25 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2581-1
A Peeping Tom with delusions of grandeur takes notes on the human condition in this tawdry but revealing case study. Journalist Talese (Thy Neighbor's Wife) was contacted in 1980 by Gerald Foos, a Colorado motel owner who spied on guests from the motel attic through fake ceiling vents, meticulously recording his own observations. (Talese is releasing the book now because Foos recently released him from a confidentiality agreement.) The book's heart consists of excerpts from Foos's decades-long observations of the guests' sex acts and other interactions; these include perfunctory marital couplings, clandestine trysts, florid swinger parties, goat costumes, an ugly bout of incest, a possible murder, and other lesser crimes. (Foos sometimes tricked guests into thinking a suitcase held $1,000 cash to see if they would try to steal it; most did, including a minister.) There's a prurient charge to these vignettes, but Foos's pretense of sexological research isn't entirely misplaced; his accounts are well-observed, with telling details—"they all three laid quiet on the bed and relaxed, discussing vacuum-cleaner sales"—and insights into the psychology behind the physicality. Foos's rather appalling personality is too dull to sustain Talese's enveloping biographical sketch, but the dirty laundry here has some interesting stains. Photos. (Jul.)
Reviewed on: 06/06/2016
Release date: 07/12/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
MP3 CD - 978-1-5318-9155-8
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-8021-2697-9
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