Hotel de Dream: A New York Novel
by Edmund White
Ecco. 240 pages, $23.95
AUTHOR STEPHEN CRANE is nearing the end of his short life, and his wife Cora is on a fruitless mission to save him by consulting different medical specialists in several countries, to which she travels with their faithful “sad-eyed” dog Spongie in tow. Though Crane is only 28 years old, he realizes that he won’t have much longer to live and worries that he made a grave mistake by destroying the pages of a book he once started about a boy-prostitute in New York City. He recounts how he once met the sickly, painted boy named Elliot in the streets and tried to help him, then spent time observing him and the behavior of his underground circle of transvestites and homosexuals. During a journey to Germany in a nearly unconscious state of mind, Crane painfully dictates to Cora a new book based on the boy-prostitute Elliot. It primarily focuses on his love affair with a middle-aged banker named Theodore and the older man’s sexual obsession with the effeminate teenage boy. As if this weren’t scandalous enough, Crane writes about the affair and about Theodore with a startling degree of compassion and sympathy. Though he’s nearly deranged with passion for the slight, violet-eyed boy, Crane also discovers something beautifully noble in Theodore’s loyalty and tremendous love.