Wish I Was There: Seni Glaister on The Hotel New Hampshire

This month’s blog theme is ‘Wish You Were Here’ – we’re jetting around the literary world to explore the concept of travel in fiction. We’ve asked some of our authors to tell us about their ideal literary holidays – to start us off, here’s Seni Glaister on John Irving’s Hotel New Hampshire:

hotel new hamp

‘When I was about fifteen I pulled a book off a bookshelf paying no attention to the title or to the author.  It was a fat paperback with a glossy cover and foiled type and the spine was cracked in a way that only a book that has been truly enjoyed can manage.  It looked no different from the books I was reading voraciously at the time: epic tales of family struggles, multi-generational rags-to-riches stories, great big books of glitz and glamour and unimaginable lifestyles. When I began this book, I was still content to stand on the sidelines of life, observing.  By the time I finished it I was ready to join in.  So when asked where I’d go for my dream literary holiday I didn’t even have to browse the bookshelves of my mind to pick my destination.  I knew immediately that I’d check straight in to John Irving’s Hotel New Hampshire.

This was a hotel filled with characters that my fifteen-year old self wanted to befriend.  Wild, feisty Franny, whose profanity never failed to shock. Sweet, sad Lilly who was “just not big enough”, a bear called State o’ Maine who rode everywhere in a sidecar, a disgusting dog called Sorrow, Coach Bob, Frank, John and Egg, midgets, whores and Susie. Their actions shocked and delighted me, their catchphrases: “everything’s safer then love”, “Keep passing the open windows”, “you’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed” have never left me.  My unscheduled visit to this strange world changed my life irrevocably.  From that moment, the safe choices seemed monochrome, the paths that held the promise of adventure were the ones lit up in glorious Technicolor.  Fiction suddenly seemed so much more appealing than fact.  John Irving’s book made me realise the world was full of characters, not just people.

So I’ll go back to the Hotel New Hampshire for my holiday please, and I’ll explore it all over again.  It won’t be a restful holiday and I’ll probably spend most of it in tears.  It won’t be a luxurious holiday either: the chair I sit on will be screwed down to the floor (“Nothing moves at the Hotel New Hampshire! We’re screwed down here for life!”) And the miniature loos and basins will quickly become tiresome but before I check out I’ll have learned to invent what I love and what I fear; that Sorrow floats; and to take every opportunity given you in this world, even if you have too many opportunities. And that, I think, is quite a lot for a holiday to deliver.’

Seni Glaister’s ‘The Museum of Things Left Behind’ will be published on the 21st May.

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