The Seedy Splendors of the Love Motel, and Other News


On the Shelf

Capri, from Jur Oster and Vera van de Sandt’s Love Land Stop Time. Image via Hyperallergic.

  • Herman Melville ended his life as a failure, with no inkling of the posthumous glories to come. It sounds so miserable when you put it that way, doesn’t it? And in many ways it was. But his final years had small pleasures of their own. Mark Beauregard writes, “Having failed commercially as a novelist, he had spent the last twenty-five years of his life out of the public eye, and he had written poetry nearly every day. Mostly, his verse was tortured and cramped, and he often drew his themes from unlikely sources: ancient Greece and Rome, the Holy Land, myths, gods, and temple architecture … Six days a week, he walked west from his apartment at 104 East Twenty-Sixth Street, across lower Manhattan, to the docks along the North River (as the Hudson was then known). His job was to check ships’ cargoes against their bills of lading and write reports, for which he earned four dollars a day (a salary that never changed). He walked back home in the evening, an unwavering routine. After dinner, he wrote poems late into the night.”

  • While we’re keeping it trashy: a new photobook, Love Land Stop Time, captures the love motels of Brazil in their many-splendored neon: “Rooms feature mirrors not just on walls but also on their ceilings; sofas are dressed in vinyl printed with busy, retro patterns; beds are round. In one image, a prism of light is cast on a mustard-yellow curtain and a floral bed sheet, creating a homey love den for disco lovers … Visiting these pleasure palaces is essentially as normal as taking a trip to the supermarket. Young people in Brazil tend to live with their parents until marriage; small houses often accommodate large families. Love motels—relatively ubiquitous, cheap, and available for rent by the hour—offer a much-needed place where couples have guaranteed privacy to enjoy some good, old-fashioned adult fun.”
  • Elvis Costello and New York City: they go together like bagels and lox. Except, Elvis Costello is British. British. Grew up in Liverpool. So why the 278 shows in NYC, then? Why the deep affinity for Gotham? It doesn’t add up. A lesser man might’ve asked to see Costello’s birth certificate. Instead, Wendell Jamieson just asked him about it: “There is something in his music—caustic, smart, fast-talking, but with moments of deep compassion and sublime beauty—that is quintessentially New York. He made a habit early in his career of being in-your-face, maybe a bit of a jerk, characteristics some might associate with New Yorkers as well … Mr. Costello was game to knock around my theory, if at first not entirely convinced. We were both hard-pressed to come up with other examples of non-New Yorker musicians, artists or authors who conveyed the sense of the city without trying to, or even realizing they were.”
  • Many of us use Twitter to procrastinate, and we have nothing to show for it but self-esteem issues. The novelist Rabih Alameddine, though, who tweets pictures of works of art, has tens of thousands of followers and a growing reputation as an artist himself. “ ‘The funny thing about my Twitter account is that I do it to avoid writing,’ ” he told Jonathan Blitzer. “When he writes fiction, every sentence is a special sort of agony, he told me, and while the welter of distractions on the Internet is a liability to many authors, Twitter settles him. ‘What I do is write a sentence or two, and then I post an image; it distracts me. It calms me down, then I go back. I work a little bit. I read the sentence. I hate myself—so I post an image. Then I come back. And it’s really disgusting. I write another sentence. Then I post an image!’ ”