I just finished Night Film by Marisha Pessl, a book that is a little outside of my usual box, but since it is fall it felt like the perfect time for something creepy. The novel delivered the creep along with suspense, but it was also a heart-felt tale of human nature and an interesting look at the sometimes blurred lines between reality and art. Marisha Pessl paid close attention to detail in her writing and the added “epistolary” elements of the book such as magazine articles, website pages, and police file notes heightened the reading experience. All in all it was a very engrossing, enjoyable read.
The book opens with a fictional excerpt from a 1977 Rolling Stone interview with the elusive cult horror film director, Stanislas Cordova:
“Mortal fear is as crucial a thing to our lives as love. It cuts to the core of our being and shows us what we are. Will you step back and cover your eyes? Or will you have the strength to walk to the precipice and look out? Do you want to know what is there or live in the dark delusion that this commercial world insists we remain sealed inside like blind caterpillars in an eternal cocoon? Will you curl up with your eyes closed and die? Or can you fight your way out and fly?”
The Cordova’s are a family that flies. Stanislas’ daughter Ashley has been taught to “live life way beyond the cusp of it, way out in the outer reaches where most people never have the guts to go, where you get hurt. Where there is unimaginable beauty and pain. She was always demanding of herself, Do I dare? Do I dare disturb the universe?” This is a philosophy born from the T.S. Eliot poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, but now Ashley is dead. Scott McGrath, investigative journalist, is sucked into the Cordova story, once again chasing their myth and their ghosts. He is forced to confront the subjectivity of life, reality, and art. I found myself wanting the Cordova’s to be real characters in American history. They were just so fascinating.
Here I must stop and say that in a few places the novel veered into territory that was a little unnecessarily weird for me. For example, I loved the sequence where McGrath is “trapped” in various Cordova film sets at The Peak, but his being trapped in all those hexagonal boxes? A little over the top for me. The story just didn’t need that in my opinion. Still, this is a “must add” for your TBR pile.
Other Favorite Quotes:
“I hate how the people who really get you are the ones you can never hold onto for very long. And the ones who don’t understand you at all stick around.” – Nora
“She seemed to already know what took me forty-three years to figure out, that even though adults were tall, what we knew about anything, including ourselves, was small.” – Scott
“Is she sad? she asked. No, honey. She’s lived in.” – Scott to his daughter
“I lost Marlowe.
She slipped out of bed when I wasn’t looking.
But Harold said she needed a wheelchair to move.
Harold is mistaken. The woman moves like the Vietcong.” – Scott
“Darkness. I know it’s hard to fathom today, but a true artist needs darkness in order to create.” – Inez Gallo