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Leaving Small's Hotel
by Eric Kraft
ISBN 0312186894 / 9780312186890 / 0-312-18689-4
Publisher Picador USA
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By the time you reach page 2 of Eric Kraft's novel Leaving Small's Hotel you know you're in for a different kind of narrative: "I was sitting on a bench at the town dock, trying to drift into one of my other selves, when, instead, another self came drifting into me. A long time passed before I realized that ... I had imagined yet another self, but this time a self who assumed that he had imagined me. Over the years I have developed this other, outer, self into an alter ego and persona who, within his world, has devoted himself to the exploration and elaboration of my world and my self, for motives much like mine, since for him my world and my self are another place, another self, a vacation." The speaker is Peter Leroy, the protagonist of several of author Eric Kraft's earlier works and that other of whom he speaks is, of course, Kraft himself. Though Kraft soon removes himself from the story at hand, the reader cannot forget what Peter refers to as the "partnership, Kraft & Leroy" as Peter, himself a writer, weaves the strands of his own memoir, Dead Air, through stories about his life and travails running a failing hotel with his wife, Albertine, in the fictional community of Babbington, Long Island. It is no coincidence that a ventriloquist and his dummy figure prominently in the novel.
Lest you worry that Leaving Small's Hotel is one of those horridly self-conscious experimental novels, rest assured: Kraft's tender story of Peter and Albertine--still in love after so many years--is funny, perceptive, highly readable, and peopled with a cast of characters as intriguing as they are unique. In the end, it doesn't really matter whether this is Peter Leroy's daydream or Eric Kraft's; either way this novel is a dream come true. [via]