Thursday, February 27, 2014

Shelf Life [adult]

Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky

What is surprising about Jacob Tomsky’s memoir of hotel hustles is not that it is (yet) another whistleblower exposing the darker underbelly of his chosen industry, but that his writing is so fluid. Yes, there is a vague tang of bitterness and a lot of cussing, particularly when recreating situations with co-workers and customers alike, but instead of lowering the tone of the book to the lowest common denominator it instead keeps the tone easy, conversational and hence, the pages keep turning, almost by their own volition. In fact, I tried to put this book down at the end of four different chapters and found that I could not; not only because I like to travel and Tomsky peppers his memoir with insider tips on how to get the best service at hotels - usually involving crossing a palm with money – but also for the sense of Schadenfreud that comes from being thankful at not being in the hotel industry. Reading this book was akin to watching a disaster unfold, a morbid fascination takes hold of you to see how Tomsky deals with the next incompetent co-worker/ irate customer/ faceless corporation / entitled celebrity / union boss or all of the above on any given day. But most people with jobs in any service industry can identify with such things, making Tomsky’s stories eminently relatable – well, except for maybe the celebrity interactions. With these Tomsky drops a few names, respects the privacy of others and avoids liability where necessary (silver fruit-bowls of pills – heck that could be anyone in Hollywood, couldn’t it?). What I found myself admiring – even among the minefield of f-bombs – was Tomsky’s resilience in such a chaotic atmosphere. His moral compass is set firmly in the middle, neither so high to be arrogant nor so low to be contemptible; not one to party with guests, but not above the occasional subversive gesture at heartless hotel owners. In short, Tomsky seems like a good guy, if a bit on the jaded side, and though he may never get hired in the hotel industry again, his new career as a writer seems off to a good start. Find Heads in Beds on the shelves at libraries in Stratford and Listowell, and at

This review was published in the Stratford Gazette on February 27. Written by Robyn Godfrey, Librarian.

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