cover image Hotels of North America

Hotels of North America

Rick Moody. Little, Brown, $25 (224p) ISBN 978-0-316-17855-6

Moody’s (The Four Fingers of Death) clever latest explores the narrative possibilities of online reviews, that form of democratic criticism crucial to the success of everything from toaster ovens to literature itself. The novel consists primarily of an idiosyncratic collection of hotel reviews written by Reginald Edward Morse, a sporadically employed motivational speaker leading a life of “nomadic compulsion.” A hotel site’s top reviewer, whose real-life identity is a mystery, Morse mixes in autobiographical accounts of his own professional, familial, and romantic failures amid disquisitions on the “diversity of key and lock design” and hotel pornography (“at the heart of travel in America”). The online reviews look back over a period of roughly 40 years, from Morse’s childhood stay at the Plaza Hotel in 1971 to a visit to a bedbug-infested Bronx motel in 2014. In his delightful archness and strategic reticence, Morse is reminiscent of the epicurean narrator of John Lanchester’s The Debt to Pleasure. However, the wryly perceptive passages about the hospitality industry, which include a hatchet job on bed-and-breakfast inns, occasionally give way to slightly mawkish outpourings. And the afterword, in which Moody inserts himself into the text to track down the “fragmentary” Morse, could’ve been removed. Still, this is an amusing, vibrant narrative. [em]Agent: Melanie Jackson, Melanie Jackson Agency. (Nov.) [/em]