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Hotel World

Best Seller
Hotel World by Ali Smith
Paperback $14.95
Jan 15, 2002 | ISBN 9780385722100

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  • Jan 15, 2002 | ISBN 9780385722100

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  • Jul 27, 2011 | ISBN 9780307801975

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Product Details


“Ali Smith has got style, ideas, and punch. Read her.”–Jeanette Winterson

Hotel World is everything a novel should be: disturbing, comforting, funny, challenging, sad, rude, beautiful.—The Independent (London)

“In this voice from beyond the grave Ali Smith has created the perfect literary ghost…imbued with a powerful sense of wonder at the minutiae of everyday sensuality…and her beautiful, vivid descriptions are reinforced by a sharp, unsentimental tongue.”–The Times (London)

“Ali Smith’s remarkable novel HOTEL WORLD….is a greatly appealing read. Smith is a gifted and meticulous architect of character and voice.”—The Washington Post

“The heart of Scottish writer Ali Smith may belong to good old-fashioned metaphysics — to truth and beauty and love beyond the grave — but her stylistic sensibility owes its punch to the Modernists. She’s street-savy and poignant at once, with a brutal sense of irony and a wonderful feel for literary economy. There’s a kind of stainless-steel clarity at the center of her fiction. . .”—The Boston Globe

“HOTEL WORLD is that rare experiment, a novel with style to spare . . . despite all the tricks, all the tweaks of language and literature, what you remember about HOTEL WORLD is Smith’s evocation of the anguish that results when a life ends, her rendering of the sadness at separating from the living world and the loneliness of staying behind. What a death. What a life. What a book.”–San Antonio Express-News

“. . . in Smith’s hands, this slender plot serves as an excuse for a delightfully inventive, exuberant, fierce novel of which the real star is not the dead Sara, or any of the living characters, but the author’s vivid, fluent, highly readable prose. HOTEL WORLD was a well-deserved finalist last year for two prestigious British prizes: the Orange Prize and the Booker Prize. . . . I can’t begin to paraphrase all that this dazzling book conveys about humanity and mortality . . .”
– Margot Livesey, Newsday

“Ali who? Hotel what? Even for people who follow contemporary British literature, neither the name nor the title meant a lot. They do now. HOTEL WORLD makes a striking impression. It’s a challenging, often bleak but affecting journey through the lives of four young women united by the death of another . . . What an introduction to Ali Smith.
Minneapolis Star Tribune

HOTEL WORLD is that rare experiment, a novel with style to spare . . . despite all the tricks, all the tweaks of language and literature, what you remember about HOTEL WORLD is Smith’s evocation of the anguish that results when a life ends, her rendering of the sadness at separating from the living world and the loneliness of staying behind. What a death. What a life. What a book.”
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

“HOTEL WORLD is compelling . . . precisely because it suggests shifting yet coherent perspectives rather than simplifying lives into rigid, inert realities. Most impressively, Smith has mastered sophisticated literary techniques, which never intrude or bog down a delectable narrative of human perception and rumination. Apart from establishing Ali Smith as a novelist with the skills of a Martin Amis and Samuel Beckett combined, HOTEL WORLD is a damn good read.” –The San Francisco Chronicle

“Wonderfully inventive and boldly lyrical, HOTEL WORLD is an exhilarating read. A chambermaid careens to her death in a broken dumbwaiter, and her dissipating spirit sings a paean to earthly existence. . . . Newly published in the U.S., Ali Smith’s thrilling meditation on life, transience, class, and the material world was an Orange Prize finalist and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.” –INSIDE BORDERS

“Courageous and startling. I doubt that I shall read a tougher or more affecting novel this year.” –Jim Crace


Man Booker Prize FINALIST 2001

Orange Prize FINALIST 2001

Author Q&A

Q: Hotel World, which was first published in the United Kingdom, garnered much critical acclaim and was shortlisted for the 2000 Orange Prize. Many of the critics, when discussing Hotel World, hypothesize about why you set the novel in a hotel and what it (the hotel setting) symbolizes. Care to answer that yourself?

A: The hotel is a great social symbol, a gift for any writer. It implies social hierarchy. There is always someone who can’t afford to stay in a hotel, someone who has to work in all meniality in the hotel, and a well-heeled guest staying up the stairs. It’s an effortless gift of a class system parallel. When I began the novel, I knew it was going to be about real commerce because I had this gift of a solid structure. Then the spiritual commerce, the life-and-death story which frames the hotel in the book, presented itself, too. Another gift.

Think of all the great hotel books. The Hotel New Hampshire, The White Hotel, Hotel de Dream. In every one of them, there’s the central metaphor of passing-through, the central theme of transience. In big focus–life plus death, in small focus–just another night in a hotel. And for example the great thirties Garbo movie, Grand Hotel, one of the first movies to use interrelated stories. Because the other wonderful thing about hotels is that they imply more than one story, that several stories happen in them at once, that there is a collison of narratives only walls apart from each other. More gifts.

Q: Hotel World‘s main character is a young ghost named Sara, whose bodily death is vividly reimagined at the start of the novel. How did you get the idea to write this novel from the perspective of a ghost? Have you written about or been interested in ghosts before Hotel World?

A: I was about to say no–but actually, I have. There’s a gruesome character in a short story from my second collection, Other Stories and Other Stories; the story is called "The Hanging Girl." It’s about a woman living now, who finds she is being befriended by the ghost of a girl executed by hanging, probably in the second world war (it’s never made clear). It’s a guilt parable, funnier and lighter than it sounds, honest. So is Hotel World. I was surprised myself when I was writing it that such a dark-perceiving book would veer so readily into the hilarious and wild. Thank goodness.

Q: If someone was going on vacation and was bringing Hotel World to read, which other novel would you suggest that person take along as well to read afterwards as a companion piece? Why?

A: Two books, I would suggest. The first is Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, which is similarly rousing about the deeps, and to whose modernism Hotel World is I’m sure indebted. The second is Muriel Spark’s third novel, Memento Mori, a brilliant sparkling comedy in which a community of old age pensioners in London starts getting crank phone calls–or are they phone calls from Death himself?–telling them, "Remember you must die." Hotel World‘s phone message, if it had one, would be connected to Spark’s–only inverted. Remember you must live.

Q: Are you working on a new book? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

A: I am. It’s a short (I hope) novel, called The Accidental. I can only tell you the most surface things, or I won’t write it, but it’s about cinema, and about a family who answer the door one day to a girl who inveigles her way in and tells them nothing but outrageous stories and lies. I’m also working on a collection of short stories–it will be my third. I love short stories. I think they are the most underrated of the literary forms.

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