Thursday, July 3, 2014

Book Review: Cornell Woolrich, Hotel Room (1958)

The thesis of Cornell Woolrich’s Hotel Room is that “hotel rooms . . . are a lot like people”: they begin new and optimistic, and then they decay until they are torn down to make way for office buildings. (Okay, so maybe the analogy isn’t perfect.) The stories in this collection all take place in Room 923 of New York’s (fictitious) St. Anselm Hotel. Woolrich dedicates the book to his mother, with whom he lived for more than 20 years in a hotel. The first story begins on June 20, 1896, the day of the hotel’s grand opening, and the last story takes place on the hotel’s final night, September 30, 1957, which happens to be one week before the death of Woolrich’s mother. If you are a Woolrich fan, it is easy to read all sorts of psycho-significance into Hotel Room’s proceedings. If you are not a fan, then you are left with a collection of entertaining if overwritten stories, which pluck seven dramatic nights from Room 923’s sixty-one year history. Grade B- 

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