The Electric Hotel - Dominic Smith

The Electric Hotel - Dominic Smith

I was immediately draw to this book by the cover. When I flipped it over to read the blurb, the spine had black and white images of tigers. Hotels and tigers? I don't even care what this book is really about, I need to read it.


About 50 pages in, I was already setting myself up to read yet another disappointing book. At least I'm consistent at this point. I really had to push myself to get through the next 50. At about 105, I knew sticking with it was the right choice.


The book follows Claude who is one of the very first concession agents for the Lumiere brothers. The Lumiere brothers invented the cinematographe, basically an improvement on Edision's peepshow device. I did a little research after reading this novel. Edison was a douche in this book which as it turns out is pretty true to life. 


Claude eventually decides to branch out. He decides he wants to make his own movies. He collects a group of people including an aging actress, a man who lights himself on fire, and a guy who just wants to get out from under the mod. It's the stuff good television is made of, right? Together they embark on the most adventurous cinema project of the age. The Electric Hotel is Claude's epic work. The story follows the "gang" through the movie's production and the events that follow the movie's controversial release.


All of this is being told to Martin, a college student who seeks out Claude at his current residence, the Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel. Claude's story telling is mixed with current events. Current, like 1962 current. 


As mentioned before, the first 100 pages were a bit of a struggle for me. More than anything going on in the story or the author's writing, it was the format. I thought it was clunky. The author uses block paragraphs. Some paragraphs are full of three or four long sentences. Some are long paragraphs filled with short sentence. He doesn't punctuate conversations the way you normally would. 



--How is your day?

--I think we need a tiger in this movie.

--I'll find one.


That is how conversations appear. It took some getting use to. If that tiny example turns you off, don't even bother with this book. 


So why did I stick to it? One, I'm determined to get out of my bad book slump. Two, once I got to the part where Claude and crew are making their epic masterpiece, I couldn't put the book down. The author made me feel like I was watching a silent movie. The images that ran through my head were black and white accompanied by dramatic piano scores. It was brilliant. It was haunting. It was beautiful. 


I'm curious to know if anyone has read The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Smith. I would love to know if his different style is his signature or just something done with this novel.