Thursday, October 4, 2007

Hotel de Dream by Edmund White

Hotel de Dream, is an unusual novel within a even more unusual novel. The main story focuses on the last days of Stephen Crane, the real life author of “The Red Badge of Courage”. He feels the intense desire to write one more story before he dies. His wife takes dictation as he relates the story of Elliot, a newsboy/prostitute and Theodore, a married-middle-aged banker.

White offers a blend of fact and fiction in his latest work. While some of the characters are real (Crane, his wife, Henry James, Joseph Conrad and others), others are works of fiction as is the storyline. It’s a little confusing in the beginning because the story goes from the present where Crane is dying to the past where Crane meets Elliot, the character about whom he later writes his book. Once Crane starts his dictation to Cora, I found it much easier to follow.

I really started to enjoy the book once Elliot’s story began. I really wanted to find out what happened to him. While neither story is a pleasant one to read, both were very well written. White’s ability to write the two stories using different voices demonstrates his talent. I like the parallels between White/Crane and Crane/Elliot in that White writes a novel about a real person adding fictional parts along the way while Crane writes about Elliot a “real” person he met adding fictional parts to his story. I thought this was very well done.

The author undoubtedly did a lot of research to be able to write a piece like this. I appreciate that. If you read the book, be sure to read the acknowledgements at the end.

For more information about Mr. Crane:

This is an unusual book and will not please every reader. Those interested in gay/lesbian literature might like this book, as will those who are interested in Stephen Crane. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll read anything more by this author. He has a lot of works out there and I’m bound to come across another one at some point. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it, I suppose.

Overall, I enjoyed reading it.

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