REVIEW: The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

I picked this one up because I really enjoyed—maybe even loved—Station Eleven. I’m also a sucker for mysterious places. The magic of a doors and walls and barriers between people. Sell me something like that and I am inclined to eat it right up.

There’s magic in The Glass Hotel, but it doesn’t have much to do with place, it seems. Which would probably have been a fine adjustment on my part if not for all the other disjointed means of storytelling in this book.

For the most part, The Glass Hotel is a novel I like to sit with. Emily St. John Mandel is a wonderful writer, so even when the “plot” of it all feels empty, her prose keeps me reading. Even as we jump from character to character, when I’m not entirely sure who these people are, her sentences bring me joy.

The problem with my reading experience, is as much of a sucker as I am for mysterious places, I am allergic to non-linear, multiple-perspective storytelling. It removes me from the narrative. It makes me inclined to care less. It has no momentum.

Maybe that’s a better way to describe this book. It has no momentum.

Not that every story needs momentum, but this one could’ve used a good deal of it. A Ponzi scheme set in New York City can only do so much to hold the attention of a reader like me, and I was left desperately wishing we’d return to the inventive Hotel Caiette. There, with the graffiti on the window, and the siblings who didn’t seem to share a lot of love, and the manager who didn’t seem to care for his employees—there the story felt much more … possible.

Or, if not possible, maybe open-ended?

At least, we do return to both the hotel and the graffiti, and Mandel throws a reader like me a bone when she starts to slip in a few ghosts and ideas of a “counter life.” The Glass Hotel is pieced together by a lot of fun interesting ideas, most of which I don’t believe belong in the same book.

Had this been twice as long, there’s a good chance I would have finished it, so make of that what you will.

REVIEW: The Apology by Christian TeBordo

Fiction. 178 pages. Astrophil Press. Nov 2021. Buy it here.

There’s something punk rock about TeBordo’s writing. Suburban, but punk rock. Or, at least my understanding of punk rock. I was born in 1990. I grew up listening to Prince and Mariah Carey. Maybe I’m starting all of this wrong.

The Apology is an episode of The Office turned into an episode of Fargo turned into a thought exercise written by Albert Camus. Our narrator is a man with a new identity, who is either the butt of an elaborate prank or his own worst enemy or simply the unlucky recipient of life’s mundane chaos. Either way, he’s a rebel in a tie and reluctantly charming. I actually don’t know if he wears a tie. But I like Mike Long. I’d like to have a beer with him (I know, I’m sorry).

I’m usually not a fan of the postmodernist’s need to remind me that the text is a text, but in the case of The Apology, the meta-asides felt conversational and attune with the nature of an “apology,” both in the philosophical and non-philosophical sense.

I know The Apology is good because not only did it leave me in the forgiving spirit, but I found myself continuing to turn the page even as my three-week-old daughter slept in the crook of my other arm. I’m exhausted, but I wanted to read this book more than I wanted to make myself breakfast.

TeBordo has a way of addressing our existential dread without getting all soapy about it. Yes, the world doesn’t exist, except sometimes or most of the times it does, and it doesn’t really matter, but that doesn’t mean actions don’t have consequences.

What’s remarkable about The Apology is how beautifully unapologetic it all feels. Mike Long is wildly imperfect, and that’s okay—except it isn’t. Not to the coworkers who inhabit his office.

Maybe my exhaustion is what made The Apology so appealing. A large part of me doesn’t give a fuck about much these days. I’m tired of everything. Of the charades and the parades. But I do love books, and this seemed to fall right in the gooey center in which I’m still vulnerable to caring about something. The world may be exhausting, but Christian TeBordo certainly is not.

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