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Books

Hotel Theory by Wayne Koestenbaum

An exhaustive, exhausting exploration, evisceration, analysis and autopsy of the author’s obsession with the phenomenon of the hotel, both edifice and state of mind.


Hotel Theory

Publisher: Soft Skull
ISBN: 1933368691
Author: Wayne Koestenbaum
Price: $16.00
Length: 174
Formats: Paperback
US publication date: 2007-06-21
Amazon

Reading Hotel Theory is a very different kind of experience. It’s an experience that’s not comfortable at first, though you soon get used to it; it feels unfamiliar, yet it somehow reminds you of something you know very well; it’s neither specific nor generic… in other words, it’s rather like the experience of staying in a hotel. Which is probably the point, since Hotel Theory is an exhaustive, exhausting exploration, evisceration, analysis and autopsy of the author’s obsession with the phenomenon of the hotel, both edifice and state of mind.

At first, I made the mistake of approaching Hotel Theory as if it were a book like other books. But it isn’t like other books. For a start, it’s actually two books in one: a dossier, “Hotel Theory”, containing philosophical and theoretical meditations on the nature of the hotel, and a pulp novelette, “Hotel Women, ,featuring Liberace and Lana Turner, and written without the use of the articles “a”, “an”, or “the.” To shake things up even more, these two books – one fiction, the other nonfiction – run concurrently, in twin columns that share each page.

While “Hotel Women” is a nostalgic reverie for a certain kind of old Hollywood lifestyle – a world of cocktail lounges, discreet concierges, plastic palm trees and people who dress for dinner – “Hotel Theory” is a substantial theoretical meditation about the philosophy, state of mind, or, perhaps more accurately, existential displacement caused by the experience of staying in a hotel.

When I tried reading each “book” individually, chapter by chapter, I kept getting lost and distracted, and in the end I decided to abandon myself to the book’s odd, concurrent format and read each page in its entirety, swallowing my dose of theory then sweetening it with a spoonful of syrupy romance. It worked!

After a while, I came to appreciate, even to enjoy the experience, savoring the unbalanced, scary, rudderless feeling that (I imagine) Koestenbaum intends this playful postmodern artifact to evoke. What I liked most about the experience of reading this book is that it made me foreground my reading habits, allowing me to become conscious of the strange, artificially constructed nature of text on a page, and of reading in general, making me rethink everything I normally take for granted when I pick up a book.

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Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

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White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Country Music of 2017

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There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

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7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

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