Mostly we slept. I visited Kathy and Dad's and had pot roast with them and with John and friends.
I also read Hotel De Dream by Edmund White.
Here-- for now-- is the review, nicely done, from the New York Times:
The Red Badge of Scandal
HOTEL DE DREAM
A New York Novel.
By Edmund White.
226 pp. Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers. $23.95.
Edmund White, who captured late-20th-century gay New York in his acclaimed autobiographical trilogy, has now written a novel about desire and betrayal in the New York of the late 19th century. The protagonist of “Hotel de Dream” is the American writer Stephen Crane, who at 28 is dying from tuberculosis in the English countryside. Stevie, as friends call him, lies on his deathbed, struggling to dictate a scandalous novella about a boy prostitute whom he met several years earlier. His amanuensis is his wife, Cora, herself the former proprietor of a brothel in Jacksonville named Hotel de Dream. Cora is foolish, vulgar, tender and perceptive by turns, and her ministration to the dying Crane gives White a frame narrative for this vivid and powerful novel.
HOTEL DE DREAM
A New York Novel.
The impetus for the book, White explains in a postface, is a surviving prose fragment by Crane’s friend, the critic James Gibbons Huneker, describing a chance meeting between the pair and a syphilitic New York street kid. Disgusted but fascinated, Crane began a novel about male prostitution and New York street life called “Flowers of Asphalt.” The opening of the novel was, according to Huneker, “the best passage of prose that Crane ever wrote,” but no trace of it remains, and White himself, following other scholars, raises the question of whether Crane really ever did write it. In White’s startling literary fantasy, the dying Crane rewrites the novel, which he had destroyed at the urging of his friend Hamlin Garland and which he calls “The Painted Boy.” Interspersed with moving scenes between Stevie and Cora, the novella is an explicit story of an erotic affair between the low-life Elliott and a prosperous, respectable banker named Theodore Koch.
Both “The Painted Boy” itself and the framing narrative are remarkable feats of stylistic impersonation, the language persuasive without seeming mannered. In an early scene, Crane rescues the boy from the street and takes him to a hotel: “Now that I looked at his painted face I feared I might vomit. Huneker was studying me and smiling almost satirically, as if he knew my discomfort might make a good story that very evening. ... ‘Stephen pretends to be so worldly,’ I imagined he’d soon be saying, ‘but he is the son of a Methodist minister and a temperance-worker mother and he did grow up in darkest New Jersey, and though he’s fraternized with hordes of daughters of joy he’d never seen a little Ganymede ... before, and poor Stephen — you should’ve seen his face, he nearly vomited just as the headwaiter was confiding, ‘The joint won’t be served till 5.’ ”
The descriptions of New York’s thieves, vagrants and whores have stomach-turning realism. The sordid low-life tableaux are reminiscent of contemporary prose by Stevenson and Conrad (not to mention Crane himself), but White gives us explicit descriptions of the sexual and social deviance that “real” Victorian novels could only hint at obliquely. White has conjured a missing fin de siècle novel, albeit one that could not be written for another hundred years.
“Hotel de Dream” is an echo chamber of allusion, and White deals elegantly with themes of literary influence, indebtedness and impersonation. The overcultivated, emotionally constrained New York of Edith Wharton and Henry James — who appears in the novel as a force for debilitating self-control — resounds in the morality tale of Theodore’s demise. The indifferent cityscapes of Dreiser and of Conrad (who also has a fleeting cameo) are reflected in the depiction of the world of the street. Whitman and Melville can be heard in White’s evocations of labor and of male friendship. Most importantly, the figure of Oscar Wilde broods over the whole. Intoxicatingly hedonistic and fearsomely bleak, “Hotel de Dream” rewrites “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” a fable about the dissonance between flesh and spirit, between the morality of art and the morality of society.
With memorable relish, White describes bodies ravaged by now-vanquished Victorian illnesses. He is surely drawing an implicit parallel with the AIDS epidemic of 1990s New York, capturing the erotic thrill, as well as the grief, of lovers sharing a fatal disease: “When Theodore thought of his future as a syphilitic — half crazed, open sores running on his body, his frame starved from the collapse of his digestion — he pictured Elliott with him, clinging to him. He would stroke Elliott’s hair and it would fall out and remain in his hand. In a terrible way this fantasy consoled him.” For White, diseases start secretly, corroding and destroying out of sight before becoming terrifyingly visible.
Against such decay White offers a troubling image of attempted preservation. Desperate to memorialize his erotic attraction to Elliott, Theodore commissions a statue of his naked lover, the marble boy threatening to supplant the real one who is wasting away. The same is true of “The Painted Boy”: even as he writes the final scenes, Stevie finds that the ravaged urchin who inspired it is almost forgotten. “When I think of my Elliott,” he tells Cora, “I don’t even picture the real Elliott any more.” Memorialization, like elegy, is a sign that something has been destroyed.