“The Hotel”
by Anne Enright
from the November 6, 2017 issue of The New Yorker

While I patiently wait for The New Yorker to publish the William Trevor story they said they were holding on to, I’m happy to keep getting stories from other authors I respect, and I’m thrilled at the conversations that have been going on in the comments. I expect this comment stream might carry that on because Enright is often quite divisive. I, for one, am a fan, but many others really dislike her work, which can be cold, harsh, distant, and opaque.

However, and despite my abiding admiration for Enright’s work, earlier this year her story “Solstice” appeared in the magazine, and I had a hard time discussing it (see here). Indeed, my first comment there: “The strangest thing: I read the story last Monday and planned to write some thoughts here when I had the time. When that time came, I couldn’t really remember the story!”

I wonder what we’ll get here! I haven’t yet looked at even a word of “The Hotel,” so I don’t know what to expect. I look forward, as always, to the comments below and hope everyone feels welcome to chime in.

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By | 2017-10-30T11:45:22+00:00 October 30th, 2017|Categories: Anne Enright, New Yorker Fiction|Tags: |10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. David October 31, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    I very much enjoyed this story. Enright writes with an engaging style that I don’t remember from her previous New Yorker story. I’m tempted to go back and look at that one again, but I think the answer just might be that this is better writing. There is really very little in the story that could be called “plot”, but that is by design. Instead, Enright takes on painting a very subtle portrait of the relationship between the world of her main character and the refugees she encounters. It is a picture that would be easy to get wrong, with disastrous results, but she pulls it off. On the one had is the Scylla of making this look like little more than a message like the “first world problems” meme makes fun of. The point here is not to ridicule the woman (or readers who are comfortable, first-world dwellers) by showing her complaints about her inconvenience while travelling to be inconsequential in comparison to the struggle of refugees. On the other hand is the Charybdis of making it seem like she is trying to say that the experience of unpleasant travel is universal, so people who are (most of the time) comfortable first-worlders can understand the plight of the refugee as it is just like having a flight cancelled. Instead Enright is able to create a space where we can see the shared humanity we have through how seamlessly the woman’s journey becomes transformed in to one where she becomes one of the refugees. I found it to be quite a powerful, well constructed, and beautifully expressed story.

  2. Dennis Lang November 1, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    Yup, same here. Had that intense, gripping, fever-dream quality. In fact reminded me of one of my recurring dreams, partially recalled. I’ve driven to downtown Minneapolis and entered a sprawling mall-like environment of endless corridors and escalators and can’t find the exit. Then, somehow I do, but can’t find my car, If in some versions I do find my car I can’t find my way home because all the familiar roads look unfamiliar. Very disturbing. But I digress.

  3. Fred November 2, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    Kinda struck me as JV Kafka.

  4. Read November 3, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    But was the story making fun of first world problems, or was the main character a delirious refugee herself the whole time, just like the others? I need to re-read.

  5. William November 4, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    I’m on board with David and Dennis. Esp David’s identifying “how seamlessly the woman’s journey becomes transformed into one where she becomes one of the refugees.” We all know that feeling of embarking into a strange airport in a haze of travel fatigue. Yet, no matter how difficult our situation seems, we know we will be restored to our normal comfortable world with the sunrise and the upcoming flight. But what if we weren’t?

  6. mehbe November 5, 2017 at 8:07 am

    I’d rate it as excellent just based on the opening section that so vividly describes the kind of existential horror you can have in a big empty airport that is closed, very late at night. I’ve had that experience, and it was far more unnerving than I could ever have imagined, until it happened.

    But then, that description transmutes into the terrible plight of a line of refugees, also caught in a sort of nothingness between places. Although I think I understand what Enright was doing, it didn’t quite work as well as I think it could have. I’m not sure how to describe exactly what I think is just a bit off about it, but maybe it was that there was something just a little too “refugee set piece” about it, to me, if that makes any sense.

  7. Rosalind November 6, 2017 at 11:28 am

    A terrific story. Taps into our primal feelings of insecurity. The juxipostion of traveler and refugees is a reminder of six degrees of separation we all have from being victims

  8. Sean H November 10, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    Her previous New Yorker piece had a lot of promise but this one was so vague, such a sketch, it didn’t really “move,” (develop a momentum that made me interested in the plot, what types of things would transpire, and how it would all “turn out”) it didn’t have memorable or three-dimensional characters. Her previous story was a slice of life, and that’s fine, but this one isn’t even that, it’s aphoristic, a thoroughly watered-down riff on Cynthia Ozick (or as an above commenter called it, “Junior Varsity Kafka”). Even the title was lifeless and inert, lacking specificity or definition. I just never got the reassuring sense that this story was delving anywhere, achieving anything resembling depth. The author has some talent, especially in description, but the whole is far less than the parts, the whole is a skim, a superficial thing, a gloss in a notebook. Was surprised to hear in the author interview that it was labored over b/c its defining quality, for this reader anyway, was its abiding imprecision.

  9. Greg November 13, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    Even though Sean’s assessment is well observed and reasoned, this ‘sketch’ hit home for me emotionally as it brought me back to being on the floor in the Albany bus station waiting to use the filthy washroom in the middle of the night on the way to NYC in October 2010.

    This was my favourite passage:

    “Outside the airport there is no hotel, no numbered door that opens on a room with a bed where she can sit and then lie back, prizing each shoe off with the toe of the other foot, so that one shoe and then the other drops to the carpet. No pillow she can bury her face in and then roll back from, afraid she might fall asleep fully dressed, afraid she might drool into her own hair. No. There is just this line of people who need a shower, and there is no shower – you can see it in their faces – there is no hope of water, let alone soap, let alone the shower stall she has been craving so hard, with beige stone walls and a granular, slip-free floor, a flat showerhead as big as the bottom of a bucket, soap that smells of bergamot, orange blossom, green tea…”

  10. Ken November 19, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    I was puzzled by this. I’m not sure whether to take it literally–she’s just stumbled into the wrong place–or as a nightmare she’s having or if, as “Read” said she is a refugee. I’m assuming the first reading is correct, but I feel the story should’ve made its intentions clearer yet I hardly want something obvious and didactic. I’m with “mehbe” in feeling it was off, but not knowing quite why, perhaps the vagueness, noted by Sean H., has crept into my critical skills like a parasite launched by this tale? Will I too no longer be in my fairly comfortable 1st world apartment very soon? I also didn’t like the convolutions of some of the sentences like this one “The darkness at the end of the corridor yielded (yielded??–my comment) two men, jolting a little as they conveyed along like toy men–or toy soldiers, indeed, because they wore peaked caps and one of them had a large gun, which he held across his front with both hands.” Writing like that just tires me out. How are men ‘yielded’ by the way and are people ‘jolted’ on a conveyor belt? I actually couldn’t physically visualize this whole scene and her encounter with them in terms of where each one was in narrative space.

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