“Hotel Life is awfully high-brow.” So says Terri Schlichenmeyer, in an oft-reprinted review of the book. Happily, we agree!
We asked, “What is a hotel?” And, “What kind of work does it do?”
In trying to answer these questions, we wanted to show that even though hotels are everywhere around us, we rarely consider their essential role in our modern existence and how they help frame our sense of who and what we are.
We concluded, by the end of the book, that they are, in fact, as centrally important as other powerful places like prisons, hospitals, or universities. More than simply structures made of steel, concrete, and glass, hotels are social and political institutions that we invest with overlapping and contradictory meaning. These alluring – and sometimes terrifying – places uniquely capture the realities of our world, where the lines between public and private, labor and leisure, fortune and failure, desire and despair are regularly blurred.
Guiding readers through the story of hotels as places of troublesome possibility, as mazelike physical buildings, as inspirational touchstones for art and literature, and as unsettling, even disturbing, backdrops for the drama of everyday life, we hope that Hotel Life will ensure that readers will never think about this seemingly ordinary place in the same way again.