Night Film

Night Film

by Marisha Pessl

Anne Ferber (08/17/13): Opening a new novel is not unlike embarking upon a vacation: Expectations are high and the beginning usually anticipatory. Having enjoyed Special Topics, etc, I was eager to see her next efforts. Although it was generally agreed that Ms Pessl would benefit from a more "disciplining" editor, this book seems to be burdened with a similar shortcoming. Too long, too wordy, too stuck in the miasma.

The plot generally examines the life and career of Stanislas Cordova, a dark, reclusive genius of a Hollywood director, as seen through the eyes of a hapless investigative reporter, Scott McGrath, who has written negatively about him in the past. The result was a libel case that left McGrath without employment. Cordova's 24 year old enigmatic daughter, Ashley, is found dead in the first few pages, and McGrath, with vengeful intent, plans to investigate the cause.

Everyone who has ever been connected with Cordova is either disappeared, dead, or ready for an institution. So, of course, the man must be pure evil. We are never shown that he is evil, only told that he is by others who have their own demons with which to contend. His films can only be viewed in underground venues, making his reputation all the more mysterious and charismatic.

All this sounds intriguing, but add to it an interminable melange of magic mumbo jumbo, devil worship,and crazy talismans, all of which lead to a concoction of fantasy voyages that don't result in any of the conclusions later drawn by the plot. It does provide a funhouse effect, and if the garden was weeded a bit, the events, although tragic, could be more of a joyride, which somehow seems to be the intention.

The graphics and created interviews "ripped from the headlines" that are inserted throughout seem aimed at the hi-tech set, but we old fogies will surely recognize Frank and Mia in the pictures. (Talking about that, I did hear a distinct "Ga-DONG" as McGrath and his cronies follow leads throughout New York City and State.)

I give this book 3 1/2 stars for some truly lovely writing and haunting imagery that remains after completing 587+ pages. If the movie stars George Clooney as McGrath, I will definitely see it. He has proven to be great at comedy.

However, like a vacation that is a few too many days at the beach, I was long ready to be done.
Rating: ***+

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