Saturday, August 03, 2013

Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky

This book was inevitable: after Waiter Rant (see my review at the end of this monthly roundup), my colleagues in trade publishing were beating the bushes for more of the same kind of thing -- semi-anonymous semi-memoirs from the fancier end of the hospitality business, to tell us that our worst fears are not just true but not even close to what's really happening.

Tomsky has worked in fancy hotels -- mostly at the front desk, mostly in midtown Manhattan -- for about a decade, and I detect a certain amount of "but I really want to be a writer" in Heads in Beds, so he's precisely the person those editors were searching for. He tells his story -- a military brat who hit the end of his academic career in New Orleans, with a useless philosophy degree and a burning desire to make a lot of money without working too hard -- under the bizarre guise of "Tommy Jacobs," whose story he tells in first person. (Surely he realizes his real name is on the cover, so this serves no purpose?)

There are some juicy stories along the way, but not all that many of them -- Tomsky is telling his story (just like Waiter Rant did), and not itemizing all of the things that desk clerks and bellmen and doormen and housekeepers get up to when you're not looking. He's not a reporter; he's a memoirist, so all you can get is what he personally saw and did and heard about. A more comprehensive book would be better -- juicier, obviously, but with a wider scope and a deeper sense of authority -- but that book would have required a publisher to bankroll a real reporter, send that person across the country to talk to a whole lot of hotel folk (and for that reporter to be good enough to get the real dirt), and then give time for the book to be synthesized and written. It's much easier to find someone who can write and just get him to tell his own story -- and that's close enough for a bestseller audience, anyway.

Don't get me wrong: Heads in Beds is entertaining, and lots of fun. It goes down easy, and the reader hopes that Tomsky has some stuff in reserve -- or some buddies he can hit up for stories -- to fill out the inevitable second volume.

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