Friday, October 02, 2020

31 Days of Halloween - Day 2 - Book

The Night Ocean by Pail La Farge. Penguin Books. 2017.

Charlie, a writer of profiles of obscure people, becomes obsessed with a section of time in the life of H.P. Lovecraft when forty-three year old Lovecraft was visiting and being listed by a sixteen year old boy named Robert Barlow. He thinks he's come across evidence that they were having a homosexual affair when he uncovers a book called The Erotonomicon which is a collection of journal entries that demonstrates that such an affair did occur. Charlie's discoveries become a best selling book and launch him into fame, but that all starts to unravel when not only does The Erotonomicon turn out to be a hoax, but that Charlie interviewed an imposter pretending to be Robert Barlow. Convinced that there was no hoax, nor scam, Charlie tries to save his reputation and ends up sucked further down a rabbit hole of unreliable narration until he finally disappears. His wife, certain he's still alive, retraces his steps and finds herself being pulled into that same spiraling hole of indeterminate truths and half truths and outright lies.

This book is excellent. La Farge is a fantastic storyteller and shores up the wavering line between truth and deceit by filling the narrative with very real people and events from not just the life of H. P. Lovecraft, but Barlow, William Burroughs, Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi, Frederick Pohl, Donald Wollheim, Samuel Loveman, Leslie Perri, Isaac Asimov, and prominent members of early genre fandom. With such a well researched foundation of facts, La Farge is able to build a convincing narrative with which to pull the rug out from under the protagonists (and the readers') feet.

If you like the work of Lovecraft, or have an interest in the early years of fantastic, weird, and science fiction this book is not to be missed.

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1 comment:

immaterial said...

Interesting! I’m racking up quite the Christmas wish list going through these posts. I have one for you. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova takes Dracula as it’s starting point, but reads more like M.R. James, and long as it is I think I have now read it three times. A pure pleasure.