Hotel du Jack by Dan Brotzel
Innovative narratives are not enough to save this patchy collection of short stories
Hotel du Jack is convinced, deep in its pages and soul, that it is a better book than it actually is.
Promising hilarious and moving short stories that engage with the everyday of contemporary life, the resulting collection is patchy at best, seeming to have confused wittiness with mean-spirited disdain. One story unveils the strange antics of a neighbourhood through their communal social media group, another shows the disintegration of a relationship through a lesson on the active and passive voice, while another charts a LadBible disciple blurring the lines between his own life and a chick lit novel.
Dan Brotzel’s narrative frameworks are frequently innovative, but sadly the same cannot be said about the stories themselves: supposedly tongue-in-cheek references to Brexit feel simultaneously trite and dismissive, the melancholy of the everyday is depicted with a banality that feels almost sneering, and women are frequently portrayed as nagging, uptight, or victimised by men, their tales told with a self-aware smugness that decentres and reduces any female perspective.
Unfortunately for these stories, profound social commentary and humour cannot only cleverly observe sadness and trauma – they also need to wrestle with their depth and complexity. Ultimately, Hotel du Jack is intended to be laughed at, not with: an attitude that is deeply, uncompromisingly unfunny.
Sandstone Press, 23 Jan, £8.99