The Third Hotel, Lauren van den Berg & Aupo Pipeño
The Third Hotel, by Laura van den Berg & Aupo Pipeño, by Viña Maitia
by Kim Kent
A year ago
I am not a horror movie buff. I’d say that I don’t particularly like them even, but Laura van den Berg’s The Third Hotel possesses a quickening—a pace of fragmentary movement and observation that reduces bodies to “flesh and blood” and cultural critique to that of a single “fluorescent pink straw”—that’s both unsettling and enthralling. Even when, or perhaps because, we can, at times, see around the lens and catch a glimpse of the strings. What’s most horrifying about van de Berg’s horror-esque novel is not gore or violence, of which there is little, but its atmosphere. That is to say it’s the novel’s mind that scares me. It pulses “lush with heat,” and slides toward a reality that melts just as quickly as it’s observed, leaving the reader to wonder: “Are we really here?” And if so, where is the where we want to get to?
There’s much that feels untenable about The Third Hotel. Everyone and everything are up for examination, though clear verdicts are hard to find. There’s a sense of something there and still out of reach, “quivering under the surface.” As readers just as we get comfortable in the role of the looker, everything flips—like falling over a waterfall—and we find ourselves subject to the novel’s eye, perhaps, even implicated in its gaze.
Aupo Pipeño, a blend of Carignan and País, is the sort of chilled red wine I want to drink on a sticky evening somewhere in the shadow of an ocean, or under palm trees roughed up by wind. Or simply in the little park by my house where I’ve taken up temporary residence during quarantine, and where I’ve finally read a book. It’s a juicy wine, the way overripe fruit can be, but with enough bite to hold you as reality slips away. The País grapes are removed from their clusters through traditional destemming methods—a large metal grate-like apparatus called a zaranda—and are spontaneously fermented with whole cluster Carignan grapes in a concrete vat. I suggest chilling it for optimal balance: “a little swollen, a little sharp,” as any good Final Girl can tell you.
Laura van den Berg was born and raised in Florida—apparently the home of fiction writers interested in liminal space and escaped zoo animals—and she has received many awards and fellowships for her work. The Third Hotel is her second novel, and she has two collections of short stories. She now lives in Cambridge, MA where she teaches at Harvard.
Viña Maitia’s winery is located in the Maul Valley in Chile. The Aupa blend is 80% País and 20% Carignan. The grapes are grown on granite soil and spontaneously fermented. País was the first grape planted in the Americas, brought there by the Spanish. Colonialism sucks, but natural wineries that grow indigenous grapes are pretty rad.