Inside the Dream Palace by Sherill Tippins

inside-dream-palaceThe Chelsea Hotel is a place of literary legend, so when I saw Inside the Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York’s Legendary Chelsea Hotel I knew I had to read it. The Chelsea is one of those places that makes you think ‘if these walls could talk’ and that is what Sherill Tippins attempts to give you in her social history of the hotel. Starting from the early days of the Chelsea’s first conception, Tippins leads the reader through its construction, famous inhabitants and infamous scandals.

For the most part I was fascinated by what I found in Inside the Dream Palace, and given the long list of culture makers who lived there, who wouldn’t be? But I also felt a little bogged down at times. I was expecting a quick and dirty recounting of the who, what, and why of the Chelsea. At times Tippins narrative delves a little too deeply into events outside of the Chelsea. That being said, she does give a marvelous account of the social history of the time, i just would have made it about 200 pages shorter.

I didn’t know they lived at the Chelsea!

I was shocked by the variety of people who lived at the Chelsea. We all know that Sid Vicious lived there and that the 1970’s and 80’s were a tumultuous time for the Chelsea, but both before and after there were characters that I didn’t know lived there.

– Arthur Miller lived at the Chelsea for a really long time. I didn’t even know he lived that long!

– Arthur C. Clarke was at the Chelsea for years while writing 2001 and he was highly influenced by Allen Ginsberg.

– Leonard Cohen moved from Montreal to the Chelsea to find fame.

– Germaine Greer ushered in a new wave of feminism from the Chelsea’s halls.

– Sparkle Hayter penned at least one of her novels while living there in the last years of the Chelsea.

And one thing I didn’t know is that Dorothy Parker never lived there.

Who would like this book? This book is for the historian of popular culture. That goes without saying. It would also appeal to those with an interest in the philosophy behind utopian living communities, for that is how the Chelsea got its start. From here, this book will propel me towards books like Just Kids by Patti Smith and perhaps a biography of Arthur Miller.