Marisha Pessl’s new novel, Night Film, is out today. Pessl is the much-admired author of Special Topics in Calamity Physics, a literary debut that everyone loved, and I enjoyed too, when it appeared in 2007. I did not like this new book, and for many days I’ve been puzzling over how to explain why. Night Film is a mystery book, almost deliberately structured as a puzzle. Which means that telling you very much about the book would unravel its appeal for those of you who are, unlike me, destined to enjoy it. Yet I don’t seem to need to spoil you to raise some questions about this bizarre little literary novel. Because it’s not actually the plot that bothers me, nor the characterization, what little there is to speak of. Nor is it even the prose, though I think some of her metaphors are better termed record-scratches.
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