The other day, I was re-reading some stuff that had been unearthed by the move, and ran across a paperback copy of Heinlein’s The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, a 1959 collection of stories that fall somewhere between fantasy and paranoia. One of the stories, “All You Zombies –“, is very well known, and is seen by more than a few critics as the definitive time-travel story. Another, “And He Built a Crooked House“, has been a favorite of mine for years. The title novella, however, is something else again.
As I read it this weekend, I began to consider it as a sort of cosmic noir. There is a mystery, and there are detectives who engage in snappy banter, and some folks emerge sadder but wiser, but the premise of the mystery/conspiracy is existential and a bit disconcerting. When I looked at it that way, the paragraph I’m using as today’s QotD fits quite nicely:
The little hotel was like a thousand others, definitely third rate without pretension, a single bit of neon reading: “Hotel Manchester, Transient & Permanent,” a lobby only a half-lot wide, long and narrow and a little dark. You do not see such if you are not looking for them. They are stopped at by drummers careful of their expense accounts and are lived in by bachelors who can’t afford better. The single elevator is an iron-grille cage, somewhat disguised with bronze paint. The lobby floor is tile, the cuspidors are brass. In addition to the clerk’s desk there are two discouraged potted palms and eight leather armchairs. Unattached old men, who seem never to have had a past, sit in these chairs, live in the rooms above, and every now and then one is found hanging in his room, necktie to light fixture.
If you haven’t read it before, it’s worth your time.