I Hotel

Been hearing very good things about I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita, which was nominated for this year’s National Book Award. Scott Bryan Wilson reviews:

Formally, the work comprises ten novellas, one for each year of the decade covered, with most written in differing styles. The narrative is related not only through traditional prose — exposition and dialogue — but through a three-ring circus of genres: comics (about Suzie and Anna May Wong, Siamese twin daughters of Chiquita Banana), analects (“to see oneself in another is to learn both fate and possibility”; “one man’s history is another man’s imagination”), and poetry (which depicts fights between various Chinese martial arts masters: “108 points of attack / 36 are secret (lethal) / 72 will not kill or cripple // 5 monkey types: / drunken / stone / lost / standing / wooden,” as well as screenplay, theater, songs, study guides, epigraphs, fables, drawings, and an approximation of a prose version of free jazz sax which defies excerpting but makes an intuitive sense on the page and appears to have a minimum of three or four different ways to be read. It’s quite a performance, with Yamashita fluidly moving through each style, and testing what can be conveyed through each one.

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