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Words of a Bibliophile

"It's only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away." —Bee Gees

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Night Film - Marisha Pessl

I rarely get spooked by a book, but this book spooked me. I'm a notoriously slow reader, especially with English books, but I flew through this thick novel, dreading what I'd find on the next page but eager to see it at the same time. This book petrified and thrilled me, made me read into the late hours of the night — just another page, just another short chapter — and caused a chill down my spine when I realized as I came up for air, blinking, that I was alone in the room and everybody else had gone to bed. Shadows kept haunting me as I went to sleep myself, threatening nightmares that in the end didn’t come, until another day rolled by and I picked up the book again, submerging myself back into its depths.

It’s not that I didn’t recognize its weaknesses. The author’s overuse of italics for emphasis annoyed me — they appeared every few pages and sometimes in the same paragraph or even sentence. The main character, a world-weary investigative journalist, was prone to spouting cynical wisecracks and making dumb moves that raised questions about how good he really was in his profession. The sprawling story branched in many directions like dark underground tunnels, and not all of them were explored, not all loose ends were tied.

But I felt that was how the story was intended. Just when I thought the rug had already been pulled out from under me, I realized I was standing on another rug which then also got pulled out, revealing yet another rug. After I finished the book I went back to re-read several key scenes, comparing this interpretation to another, trying to determine which one was true. But this wasn’t the kind of book which gave plain, straightforward answers. Just like Cordova, the mysterious cult movie director at the center of the narrative and his equally enigmatic daughter Ashley, they remained shrouded in dark mist. I always ultimately judge a book by the way I felt (and how much I felt) when I read it, and I felt like I had been lost in that mist as well, treading the narrow path between truth and fiction.

"...the biggest truth about a family, about a person's life, was the fantasy and it was only a simple man's mind that craved one being tidily distinguished from the other."