2014: 59. Night Film

"Everyone has a Cordova story, whether they like it or not."

Night Film, Marisha Pessl

I was very excited for this book - I really enjoyed Special Topics in Calamity Physics, and couldn't wait to see what the author would do next.  Plus, the topic seemed so intruiging and up my alley. 

Our narratory is Scott McGrath, who is a journalist investigating the suicide of 23 year old Ashley Cordova.  Brilliant, beautiful, a former child prodigy, and the only daughter of famed reclusive horror director Stanilas Cordova.  McGrath tried to investigate Cordova before, only to see his career and reputation destroyed.  So he sees Ashely's suicide as a second chance to get to the bottom of the Cordova story.  Soon he - and two assistants of sorts he has picked up on his travels, are sucked into a dark and scary mystery - one that might be out of one of the elusive Cordova's own films…

So.  I can't dispute that it's a page turner -  I tore through it.  And the idea of Cordova - a mysterious filmmaker who has taken himself out of the world entirely - even his films are only showing in mysterious underground showings - is great.  Pessl spent a lot of time on backstory, and the backstory is killer.  But this book is like junk food - you can't stop eating it, but afterward you realize its all empty calories.  Because once the book is put down, and you are examining it in the cold light of day, you realize its a bunch of set pieces that make no damn sense.  While its atmospheric, it's not credible.  And while the main character of Special Calamity was so great that I was willing to overlook the rushed and terrible ending, our main characters here are just not real people.  McGrath is nothing but a cliche (and, for all his talk about parenting, a terrible, terrible father, just like the one in Physics - makes me wonder about Pessl's dad), and the rest aren't much better (don't get me started on the beautiful but doomed Ashley - though at least she is already deceased, so you can forgive her characterization as the way that others saw her).   Some of these set pieces are pretty cool - though they are never scary, and they certainly do not seem like they could have happened, especially when you get the explanations at the ending.  And the ending is a total cop-out in my mind - of course, I should have known it was going to have a stupid ambiguous ending, but it didn't make it any less irritating. 

I'd recommend this fine if it was just junk and published as such - but Pessl is a literary darling, and that seems like b.s. to me - most genre novels I read are better characterized and have more satisfying endings.  Disappointing.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017