Monday, 13 January 2014

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

published 2013







She then turned and opened up the Whole Foods bag, peering inside as if there were something alive in there. She reached in with both hands and gently pulled out a bulky red-and-black bundle, placing it on the table and sliding it towards me.

I recognized it immediately.

It was a woman’s coat. And for a moment, the diner and everything in it dissolved. There was only that article of clothing, so ferociously red, staring me down. It looked like a costume, ornate, faintly Russian – red fabric, the cuffs black, black cord embellishing [it].

The woman I’d encountered at the Central Park Reservoir, weeks ago, had been wearing it…

I grabbed the Whole Foods bag, exiting the diner. The sun was out, splattering brash light over the cars speeding down Eleventh Avenue. It did nothing to lighten the unease I felt over the simple, startling fact that the red coat, that blood red stitch in the night from the Reservoir, had appeared one more time in front of me.

It was in my own hands.



observations: The red coat features throughout Night Film, as a beacon leading the way for the sleuths, and as a check on who is telling the truth: the official description has Ashley Cordova wearing a black YSL coat, so you can test out witnesses by asking the colour of her coat. Later the piano man will say ‘the red coat with the black detailing along the sleeves’ so they know he really did see her, in his shop where ‘identical shiny baby grands were lined up, lids open, like hefty chorus girls awaiting a cue.’

This is a most peculiar book, and one that gives rise to mixed feelings. It features images of newspaper stories, webpages, photos found in odd places, pages supposedly from Time and Vanity Fair. You expect it to be multi-voiced, multiple perspective, but it is very straightforwardly narrated by one person. Apparently you can make the story interactive by scanning icons throughout the book. But it is not a book you want to read on an electronic device, because of all the special pages representing other media. In fact it’s a very old-fashioned (not meant as an insult) story, very linear, a careful investigation (with some reporting of flashbacks) of what happened to Ashley in her red coat.

But it keeps changing – part of it is a most scary creepy tale with black magic and horror overtones, and it does have some very weird scenes. Ashley’s father is a reclusive and mysterious film director, and all that part is incredibly well-imagined and described. But then the next scene will feature the narrator and his two helpers, like Scooby Doo or the Hardy Boys, all being juvenile and quirky and eccentric together. Unevenness of tone might be the best description.

The book has thousands of references to absolutely everything, including CafĂ© Wha? – which featured in a recent Bob Dylan entry – and to Twiggy whose autobiography gave an entry here.

7 comments:

  1. Moira - Oh, this does sound like a most unusual and atmospheric read. I have to admit I have a soft spot for the traditional careful investigation. I've got to see if I can get this in paper form, as it sounds at the heart of it like that sort of novel if I can put it that way. And now I'm very curious about that coat!

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    1. I think you'd like it Margot, definitely worth a try. You know when you have to admire an author for being brimming over with ideas, even if not all of them work out? Well she's like that.... I'd love to know what you made of it, so I hope you will give it a go.

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  2. Perhaps sounds a little bit too clever for me, so I shall respectfully pass on this one. Maybe tomorrow....

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    1. I actually think you might like it Col, it might be one of those books on the cusp where you and I meet. But you mustn't break the embargo! And, don't get too excited about tomorrow.... (everyone else can, just not you.)

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    2. Hmm....I'll check around and get a second opinion, Dr. Redmond

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  3. I just can't tell about this one. Some parts of it sound good, but it is very long. I will put it on a maybe someday list.

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    1. Another long one, but very readable. Before I started it I thought it would be demanding and difficult, but that isn't the case. I definitely enjoyed going along for the ride....

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