a review of Jane Unrue’s Love Hotel
The novel’s knowledge of the connection between the seen and the unseen—between what O’Connor calls “the concrete world” and its invisible outside or underside—is best captured by a description of classical statues. “Their gaze was collective,” Unrue writes, “trained upon a destination too distant, formless, timeless for the living person even to envisage.” The passage recalls both the disturbingly “eyeless” taxi driver who transports the narrator to the couple’s estate, and her encounter with a portrait whose “eyes appeared to gaze into the eyes of someone something just behind the painter.” Each of these sights could be said to express what she calls “patterns of anticipation”—where anticipation, much like desire, is largely defined by the absence of information. Of course, describing this absence gets us no closer to an account of what Unrue’s mysterious book is “about.” But maybe it helps us to formulate what it feels like to read it. So, here goes: reading Love Hotel feels like tracing someone’s gaze as they stare at something you can’t see. Or like feeling someone or something moving behind you, and turning to find nothing there. That tracing, that turning, that feeling marks the way art draws us into its mystery: the clocks stop, the world falls away, and suddenly, somehow, something appears.