Back in 2006, author Marisha Pessl published her debut novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics. The book was named one of "The 10 Best Books of 2006" by the New York Times and won inaugural JohnSargent, Sr. First Novel Prize that year. Special Topics was a unique book, written with the framework of a college syllabus, with chapters named for works of famous literature, such as Wuthering Heights, The Secret Garden, and One Hundred Years of Solitude. The text even includes an interactive “Final Exam.” The novel follows brilliant, sarcastic Blue van Meer, a high school senior, who, upon moving to a new town with her professor father, finds herself in the midst of a troubling mystery. I loved this 514 page book both for its structure as much as for its writing. A new voice had emerged in literature and I couldn’t wait to read what else Pessl cooked up.
Fast forward seven years. This month, Pessl has finally released her long-awaited follow-up, Night Film. Although Special Topics was a bit of a dark book, it also felt like it could easily cross over into YA territory. Night Film is another animal entirely. The 600+ page novel is about a journalist probing the murky circumstances surrounding the death of the young daughter of cult horror filmmaker Stanislas Cordova. Though I’m only 150 pages in, it’s very clear that Pessl has matured considerably as a storyteller. Her prose is sharp, her plotting tight, even more so than with the first book. There is no lag time in this fast-paced, macabre mystery.On the back cover, a blurbed review proclaims, “Get ready to talk about this book!” and I couldn’t agree more. I can’t wait to find out where the rest of the book is going to take me. It’s already getting a lot of buzz –last month it was an Amazon Best Book of the Month and it’s currently the cover story in Bookpage (though if you’re not a fan of spoilers, I recommend holding off on this article/interview, as I came across a few plot details I wish I hadn’t).
If you’re interested in reading Night Film, you’ll want to get on the waiting list sooner rather than later, as it’s growing every day. Though it’s a long book, it reads quickly, so finishing it in three weeks is definitely doable.Pessl is in good company, as far as authors who knock one out of the park and then leave their readers waiting years for their next great book. After his acclaimed short story collection Drown came out in 1996, Junot Díaz didn’t publish his next book, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao until 2007 (but we’ll cut him some slack since Wao went on to win the Pulitzer). There was a six year gap between Richard Ford’s last two novels, The Lay of the Land and Canada. Margaret Atwood just published MaddAddam, the third and final book in the Oryx and Crake trilogy, which first began in 2003 and also includes The Year of the Flood. And of course, fans of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice andFire series, eagerly await the final two books, as the publication gaps between the novels only seem to be widening (A Game of Thrones:1996, A Clash of Kings:1998, A Storm of Swords: 2000, A Feast for Crows: 2005, A Dance with Dragons: 2011). Though the wait for our favorite authors’ books can sometimes leave us in agony, the work they produce is often better than we could have imagined, and certainly better than if they had rushed to get it on the shelves.