Night Film by Marisha Pessl (Book Review)

Night FilmNight Film by Marisha Pessl
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Next time I’m stuck with nothing but a Marisha Pessl book to read, I’ll kill the hours by picking my toes instead.

“…the territory between two people who were once soul mates but were no longer was akin to…”


“I noticed the wicks were still smoldering orange, three orange pinpricks in the dark.”


“I swore I heard a man’s dull, prolonged moan.”


“…grabbed the black iron grating over the arched window and began to climb. ..hoisted himself higher, dangling there. ..”

By page 27, the way this writer italicizes everything for no apparent reason had become very annoying. For me putting up with that, the book owed me phenomenal.

It did not put out.

“ ..his shoulders were rising and falling, as if he was out of breath. “

Is that so I know what I need to pay attention to? I don’t need the help. I can read. And if I’m not bright enough to figure it out for myself, well, that’s what the denouement is for.

“A human shadow had just moved directly behind it, though, as if sensing we’d spotted it, it froze.”

Reading this is what I imagine it would be like to listen to a narrator read all 600 pages in a singsong tone. Is it for want of an editor who knows what italics are for? Or is it some artsy-fartsy thing I don’t get because I’m a philistine? Don’t care. Annoying as hell.

And purple prose? It doesn’t get much more purple than this. “[Men] melted and sweated and went weak in front of her like a bunch of idiot iced teas.” Just awful.

So while the story is badly over-written with its endless italics and clumsy metaphors, it manages to be under-written at the same time. There was a lot of potential for surrealistic creepiness but it never got there. There is no tension. We just traipse from here to there, find out this, find out that, oh, look, another clue conveniently lands in our laps so now we’ll go over here, but there is no sense of urgency. It could have been pruned of 200 pages and not lost a thing. By around page 350 I was weary of the whole tedious mess, but was stuck with nothing else to read, which is admittedly no one’s fault but mine. Long before I made it through the acid-trip-hexagon-coffin scene, which should have been wonderfully Kafkaesque but was merely another slog, I was anticipating those fucking italics even where there weren’t any, but at that point, I’ve got 100 pages left, might as well finish the thing and find out the unrealized premise behind it all. Right?


I’m around 60 pages into the denouement – seriously, another 25,000 words to tidy everything up and finish it off, that’s how tiresome this book is – and I’m still not sure I’ll finish it. I just don’t care.


Author: Deborah Lee

I like trees, dreaming, magic, books, paper, floating, dreaming, rhinos, rocks, stargazing, wine, dragonflies, trains, and silence to hear the world breathe.

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