Hotel Life

The Story of a Place Where Anything Can Happen

By Caroline Field Levander, Matthew Pratt Guterl

224 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 31 halftones, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3611-5
    Published: August 2017
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-2112-8
    Published: April 2015
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4813-0
    Published: April 2015
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-2113-5
    Published: April 2015

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What is a hotel? As Caroline Field Levander and Matthew Pratt Guterl show us in this thought-provoking book, even though hotels are everywhere around us, we rarely consider their essential role in our modern existence and how they help frame our sense of who and what we are. They are, in fact, as centrally important as other powerful places like prisons, hospitals, or universities. More than simply structures made of steel, concrete, and glass, hotels are social and political institutions that we invest with overlapping and contradictory meaning. These alluring places uniquely capture the realities of our world, where the lines between public and private, labor and leisure, fortune and failure, desire and despair are regularly blurred. Guiding readers through the story of hotels as places of troublesome possibility, as mazelike physical buildings, as inspirational touchstones for art and literature, and as unsettling, even disturbing, backdrops for the drama of everyday life, Levander and Guterl ensure that we will never think about this seemingly ordinary place in the same way again.

About the Authors

Caroline F. Levander is the Carlson Professor in the Humanities and Professor of English at Rice University.
For more information about Caroline Field Levander, visit the Author Page.

Matthew Pratt Guterl is Professor of Africana Studies and American Studies at Brown University.
For more information about Matthew Pratt Guterl, visit the Author Page.


“Authors Caroline Field levander and Matthew Pratt Guterl do a great job entertaining their readers with gossipy tidbits, jaw dropping information, and little-known insider facts.”--The Bookworm Sez

“Provides a good counterpoint to standard works examining hotels from historical or operational viewpoints.”--CHOICE

"A clever take on hotel life ... the book presents hotels as powerful social institutions, not unlike universities, hospitals and even prisons, that embrace all walks of life and offer insights into who and what we are."

--Overnight New York

"Hotel Life is truly a joy to read. With razor-sharp attention to the historical incidentals of our many modern hotels, Caroline Field Levander and Matthew Pratt Guterl essentially undo what you think you know about a night at the inn. Sharing entertaining insights captured in striking prose, the two have written a page-turner that probes the comings and goings of luxury resorts, casino giants, and down-on-your-luck single-room occupancies. The takeaway is a bracing look at how hospitality makes, breaks, and remakes the weary traveler in us all."--Scott Herring, Indiana University, Bloomington

"Hotel Life is a dazzling, carefully crafted, and beautifully written book, full of original insights. In it, Caroline Field Levander and Matthew Pratt Guterl show us new and thought-provoking ways we can look at hotels as a central, undeniable part of modern existence. An agile, imaginative work that will spark debate for years to come."--Howard Gillette, Rutgers University–Camden

Multimedia & Links

Visit Guterl's blog.

Follow Guterl on Twitter @mpg734.