The Voyeur’s Motel by Gay Talese — Reviewed by Guy Portman
The Voyeur’s Motel consists of the confessions of a motel owner and voyeur by the name of Gerald Foos. His lifelong obsession began in childhood, spying on his aunt through the window of her bedroom. It was his purchase in the 1960s of the Manor Park Motel in Aurora, Colorado that provided Foos with the perfect opportunity to indulge in his passion. Having constructed a viewing area above some of the rooms, consisting of a carpeted crawl space and artificial vents in the ceiling, he embarked on three decades of voyeurism.
His observations, chronicled here in meticulous detail, entail heterosexual and homosexual intercourse, oral sex, threesomes, bathroom shenanigans, and much more besides. The book elicits a range of emotions, including humour, an example being when the author joins Foos in the viewing area and is nearly discovered because his tie is dangling through the vent of an occupied room. Readers will feel empathy for the despondent, disabled Vietnam Vets, visiting with their partners. There are scenes that some may find unpalatable, such as an incidence of incest and a serious crime.
Our voyeur considers himself to be no mere peeping Tom, but rather the chronicler of social change. This argument would be more convincing were it not for the inordinate amount of time he spends snooping on others’ most intimate moments, masturbating furiously all the while.
By the author’s own admission our prurient voyeur masturbator is an unreliable narrator, there being a number of inconsistencies in his records. In spite of these doubts over the veracity of Foos’s claims, The Voyeur’s Motel is in this reader’s opinion a curious and compelling work, boasting a perceptive protagonist and an effective journalistic approach.