A stunningly ambitious, prescient novel about madness, generational trauma, and cultural breakdown
At the outset of the 2008 financial crisis, Em has a dependable, dull marketing job generating reports of vague utility while she anxiously waits to hear news of her sister, Ad, who has gone missing—again. Em’s days pass drifting back and forth between her respectably cute starter house (bought with a “responsible, salary-backed, fixed-rate mortgage”) and her dreary office. Then something unthinkable, something impossible, happens and she begins to see how madness permeates everything around her while the mundane spaces she inhabits are transformed, through Lucy Corin’s idiosyncratic magic, into shimmering sites of the uncanny.
The story that swirls around Em moves through several perspectives and voices. There is Frank, the tart-tongued, failing manager at her office; Jack, the man with whom Frank has had a love affair for decades; Em and Ad’s eccentric parents, who live in a house that is perpetually being built; and Tasio, the young man from Chiapas who works for them and falls in love with Ad. Through them Corin portrays porousness and breakdown in individuals and families, in economies and political systems, in architecture, technology, and even in language itself.
The Swank Hotel is an acrobatic, unforgettable, surreal, and unexpectedly comic novel that interrogates the illusory dream of stability that pervaded early twenty-first-century America.
“Corin's novel unveils the madness that permeates society by scrutinizing trauma, cultural expectations, and the political and economic climate of the twenty-first century.”—Booklist
“Delightfully askew, Corin’s work offers a memorable exploration of how a loved one’s mental illness can impact an individual’s outlook.”—Publishers Weekly
“Vivid, turbulent, intense, The Swank Hotel affirms, blow-by-blow, our loneliness, madness, and longing for a place to settle down. Lucy Corin’s promiscuous gaze illuminates the impossibility of repairing the breakdown by rebuilding the house from the outside in rather than from the inside out.”—Rikki Ducornet
“With love, brilliance, humor, and weird wild energy, Lucy Corin has written a perfect story of death and rebirth, of sisters, mothers, lovers, of madness, of a broken, rocky modern world. No one writes like her. No one could. Every page of The Swank Hotel is hilarious, heartbreaking, strange. To follow Em and Ad, and the other radiant characters in this novel, is to follow Jane Bowles straight into the future.”—Deb Olin Unferth