Heartwood 4:5 – Hotel Andromeda by Gabriel Josipovici

  • by Heartwood, Everett Public Library staff
  • Monday, August 25, 2014 3:16pm
  • LifeA Reading Life

In Hotel Andromeda, Gabriel Josipovici has written a beautiful and thoughtful tribute to eccentric 20th-century American artist Joseph Cornell, while also telling an engaging story of his own. This is one of those rare books in which, at least from my perspective, not a single false note is struck and every word belongs.

Helena is an independent scholar who lives in London and writes books about artists such as Monet and Bonnard. She is currently working on one about Cornell, and it is giving her some difficulty. In rotating fashion, the short chapters focus on Helena’s notes for her book-in-progress, her visits with fellow tenants Ruth (on the top floor) and Tom (in the basement), and her interactions with the surprise visitor, Ed, a photojournalist who has been driven out of Chechnya where Helena’s uncommunicative sister Alice lives and works at an orphanage. Helena learns that Ed has been sent by her sister who told him Helena would put him up temporarily as he looks for work. She is stunned by the appearance of this inconvenient messenger from her long-silent sister but she reluctantly agrees to let him stay.

Not a lot happens in the book – just perfectly executed conversations about art and life and contemporary Chechen/Russian politics, along with conflicted yearnings for connection, communication and solitude. The way Cornell’s life and art are woven through the story is fascinating and skillfully done, and these sections suffuse the book with an aura of dream, reminiscence, imagination, and childhood.

Heartwood normally focuses on older books, but I enjoyed Hotel Andromeda so much,with its short chapters and narrow columns of dialogue, that I wanted to give it some immediate attention. Josipovici’s book also fits here in a couple other ways: in several places it refers to Heartwood-featured author Camille Flammarion, and, as chance would have it, a photo of the Cornell box Hotel Eden appears on the cover of Felisberto Hernández’s Lands of Memory which was featured in Heartwood earlier this year.

The library owns several attractive books about Cornell, or you can read about him and sample his work online here and here and here.

Be sure to visit A Reading Life for more reviews and news of all things happening at the Everett Public Library.

More in Life

Kamiak student Aidan Norris (center) drags Matthew Ninh into a scene as Mitchell Beard (left) reads his lines. (Ian Terry / The Herald)
Joy, disappointment at Kamiak High’s ‘Spamalot’ auditions

More than 80 students try out for 45 roles in the outrageous Monty Python musical comedy.

What’s new for 2018 for travelers in Scandinavia

Sweden, Norway and Finland have embarked on many urban, cultural and transit projects.

Kia Rio subcompact takes a classy step up in 2018

A new design, roomier cabin, and better fuel economy are among the improvements on the 2018 Kia Rio.

Bald eagle no longer listed as ‘sensitive species’ in the state

A recent study found that eagle numbers are strong throughout Washington.

Living the suite life: A story of luck, love and legends

Jennifer Bardsley got a much better deal than she bargained for when booking a hotel room.

Indoor gardens: Four easy-to-grow house plants for beginners

If you want to get in on the house-plant trend but you don’t know where to begin, read this column.

It’s better to give your children rewards than punishments

Paul Schoenfeld explains how positive reinforcement is far more effective than negative with kids.

Arlington eagle fest wants your nature-themed artwork, haiku

Local residents of an artistic bent are invited to submit… Continue reading

This beefy ex-cop has a delicate hobby: intricate paper-cut art

You can see Tom Sacco’s creations at the upcoming Everett Art Walk.

Most Read