Arts The Motel Life
posted by July 10 at 17:00 PMon
Willy Vlautin is the lead singer of Portland alt-country faves Richmond Fontaine. I’ve long been told that I’d like the band but I’ve never checked them out. Now that I’ve read his first novel, The Motel Life, I certainly will.
The story is set during a fridgid winter in Reno, Nevada, sometime around now, though there’s a sense that the wayward, rootless characters in The Motel Life could come from any place, any time. The story follows Frank Flannigan and his depressed brother Jerry Lee as they figure out what to do with their already crumbling lives after Jerry Lee’s involved in a fatal hit and run.
Anybody who’s ever done a lot of hard-core traveling—I’m talking hitch-hiking and Greyhound, not airlines or cruise ships—knows of the other side of the American dream. The freeway drifters, the rest stop campers, folks on the run from something or to somewhere—the kinds of people you see and make up stories about because you have to place them somehow, make them less ghostly, more real—these are the people that inhabit this book. Vlautin grew up in Reno and spent plenty of time on the road with his band. He’s got the right background, the right experience to understand both the setting and the motivation for these characters.
Read the rest of the review over on Line Out. And go see Vlautin read from The Motel Life at 7 pm tomorrow, July 11 at the University Bookstore, 4326 University Way NE.