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The Motel in America

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Lolita was debauched in one; Kentucky Fried Chicken was born in another. Lots of interesting things happen behind the impervious, often cheesy facade of roadside motels, with their ”lumpy mattresses and broken ice machines/…those tiny bars of soap/grimy towels, empty pools, paper-thin walls/and forgotten wake-up calls.” But that odd little haiku of a dedication notwithstanding, this book — part of a series on ”The Road and American Culture” — isn’t about poetry. This is a pretty dense annal, written by two geographers and a historian, and consequently stuffed with maps, facts, and figures about the motel’s changing floor plans, its artful euphemisms (”inn,” ”court,” ”cottage”), and its predictable transition from mom-and-pop operation to corporate room-packaging industry. But the authors’ love of the American landscape is a big neon sign blinking through the statistics; The Motel in America is a masterful scrapbook for fellow devotees.

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