Don't be fooled, Moody's latest is not a guide to good lodgings

Book Review: "Hotels of North America" by Rick Moody (Little, Brown and Company)

Although the title of Rick Moody's latest book, "Hotels of North America," might lead you to believe that this is a handy guide to be used to find yourselves decent lodging on trips, I would advise you not to try it. This book is an experimental novel by "one of the most prodigiously talented writers in America" (Wall Street Journal). You might recognize Moody's name from his novels, "The Ice Storm" - made into a major movie - and/or "Purple America." The book has similarities with the epistolary novel (a novel told through letters - or today even through emails), but having the story of a character's life unfold though his writing of hotel reviews is original, like much else Moody does.

Moody's main character, Reginald Edward Morse, is one of the top reviewers on RateYourLodgings.com. But he does not confine his reviews to the hotels alone but sets each of his lodging experiences in the context of what is happening in his own life. This apparently has made him a top reviewer and causes the (faux) organization of hoteliers to publish a collection of his writings, which they claim is "a heart-warming, funny-bone-tickling volume about the peaks and troughs of itinerant life." But although many of his reviews are hilarious, the underlying humor here is of a much darker sort.

Edward Morse no longer lives in the "best of times," and his writing reflects this. Along with his review of high-end hotels, come some of the more recent places he has stayed at and reviewed, including an Ikea parking lot, an abandoned hardware store, and a hotel with barred windows and bulletproof Plexiglass. In Morse's reviews, we learn of his marriage, his divorce, his separation from his daughter, his new paramour and much else in a life bordering - or should I say "boardering" - on chaos. One New York Times reviewer (Dwight Garner) calls the book an examination of "the middle-aged man in free fall." This book, with all its humorous pathos, is not for everyone. But if you're in the mood for something interesting and challengingly original, Moody's book might be your ticket. I know I sure enjoyed it.

- Reviewed by Susan Lang, Peregrine Book Company event coordinator