Mark Z. Danielewski is the National Book Award nominated author of House of Leaves and Only Revolutions. His latest book, The Fifty Year Sword, is out this fall from Pantheon.
Erik Morse: Here’s the wonderful beginning to James Clifford’s essay, “Traveling Culture.” I thought perhaps this was an appropriate epigram to our conversation about the history of the hotel in Los Angeles and its particular design of dwelling.
To begin, a quotation from C.L.R. James in Beyond a Boundary: “Time would pass, old empires would fall and new ones take their place. The relations of classes had to change before I discovered that it's not quality of goods and utility that matter, but movement, not where you are or what you have, but where you come from, where you are going and the rate at which you are getting there.”
Or begin again with hotels: Joseph Conrad, in the pages of Victory: “The age in which we are encamped like bewildered travelers in a garish, unrestful hotel.” In Tristes Tropiques, Levi-Strauss evokes an out-of-scale concrete cube sitting in the midst of the new Brazillian city of Goiania in 1937. It's his symbol of civilization's barbarity, “a place of transit, not of residence.” The hotel as station, airport terminal, hospital: a place you pass through, where the encounters are fleeting, arbitrary.
Mark Z. Danielewski: I think what fascinates me about your exploration of the hotel in Los Angeles is that despite particular places or transitory residences, there is something about the city itself that acts like a hotel. What strikes me about this quote, and had, for a moment, an electrical presence in my mind, was a way of differentiating between a historical presence in a residence and a historical presence in a hotel. Some hotels might be defined or eclipsed or signified by a particular resident who inhabited a room for a certain period of time, however long or cut short, whether, say, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hunter S. Thompson, Dorothy Parker or Bret Easton Ellis at the Chateau Marmont. Yet we are at the same time dimly aware of all the nameless faces that flow in and out, their stays brief, their departures marked by little more than t...read more