The author of The Pink Hotel recommends five beloved books.
Anna Stothard has crafted a debut novel which evokes the best of Los Angeles noir, while further serving as a touching story of a daughter seeking to learn what became of her departed mother. The Pink Hotel traces the nameless heroine as she unravels the mysterious disappearance of her mother Lily through the book’s titular Venice Beach hotel and beyond, into a tangled web of drugs, love gone awry, and unrelenting paparazzi. The result is a stark and impressive introduction to Stothard’s richly authentic dialogue and firecracker prose. This week, Anna Stothard pays tribute to five books which have inspired her as a writer, each sharing The Pink Hotel‘s assured style and swift resonance.
By Truman Capote
“Few novels capture the furious strangeness of youth like Capote’s lonely coming of age story. When thirteen-year-old Joel Knox arrives at a crumbling mansion in rural Alabama to meet his father, Joel instead finds himself growing up amongst a cast of misfits: a narcissistic transvestite, a bible-thumping servant obsessed by snow, a gloomy tomboy named Idabel who I idolized for years. Capote’s semi-autobiographical tale is about searching for identity in the shadow of absent parents, which was an inspiration for a similar theme in The Pink Hotel. My dog-eared copy is covered in spills and scuffs, re-read endlessly through my teens.”
By Nathaniel West
“I stole my copy of The Day of the Locust from a stage set in Los Angeles, where it was part of a fake apartment where we were shooting a film. My job was to ring a ‘quiet on set’ bell when the camera rolled but I kept missing my cue, immersed instead in this apocalyptic novel about freaks and outlaws on the fringes of Hollywood. Published the same year as Ask the Dust and The Big Sleep (1939 was great year for L.A. literature), The Day of the Locust opens with a cavalry of movie extras disappearing behind a Mississippi steamboat and ends with a celebrity inspired riot. While The Pink Hotel has almost nothing to do with the film industry and West’s novel has everything, his descriptions of escapism and story telling influenced my portrayal of Los Angeles.”
By Virginia Woolf
“A coming of age novel with a twist, Orlando spans 400 years and nearly as many outfits. After reading it in my early twenties, I threw away my life-long wardrobe of ugly men’s sweaters, misshapen t-shirts and frayed trainers, although I didn’t go quite as far as to swap them for “crimson breeches” or ornate robes “of ambiguous gender”. Woolf’s descriptions of the artistry of sexuality kept popping into my head while I was writing The Pink Hotel, where my androgynous protagonist plays with different identities and futures by dressing up in her dead mother’s exotic clothes.”
By Jeffrey Eugenides
“I read The Virgin Suicides for the first time in the concrete courtyard of my Thai Town Los Angeles apartment block, all in one sitting, beginning in blaring in sunshine and finishing with a shiver. It’s a hypnotizing account of how frustrating youth can be, full of dress rehearsals and closed doors. My favorite image in it is of Mary, studying her face in a portable mirror with switches that simulate different times and weather, “watching her face swim through the alterations of counterfeit worlds”. She’s practicing for life, but never gets there. The novel’s atmosphere is eerily disconnected, yet explosive. Everything is viewed at arms length – theatrical and disengaged– which didn’t seem too far from my feelings about Los Angeles at the time.”
By Graham Greene
“This is a writer’s love story, focused on experience and memory as fodder for story telling. Graham Greene’s most intimate novel was an inspiration for the love story in The Pink Hotel, which revolves around lies and storytelling. “Love had turned into a love affair with a beginning and an end,” the narrator of The End of the Affair explains. “I could name the very moment when it had begun, and one day I knew I should be able to name the final hour.” The curiosities of love are beautifully described, but for me it’s always been a story about the complications and pleasures of merging life and fiction.”