Five Questions for Author Marisha Pessl
Night Film, is the new thriller by Marisha Pessl, the celebrated author of Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Her new novel tells the story of a reclusive director, the mysterious death of his talented daughter and the disgraced journalist investigating the events that led to her apparent suicide. Zoomer talked with the best-selling writer about inspiration, obsession and embracing the web.
Zoomer: There are so many fascinating elements to Night Film — the reclusive director, his daughter’s mysterious death, the disgraced journalist — where did it start for you?
Zoomer: Why do you think people are obsessed with reclusive artists, like Cordova in the book, and writers like Salinger in the reality?
MP: With the public (and I even have this as the consumer of great art and books), there is always the need to understand the creator and pull back the curtain. (Of course, when the shoe is on the other foot and I’m the writer, I don’t like to share too much information.) I think there’s a certain myth-making that occurs when someone is reclusive. And then it’s really fun to allow your imagination to take over. I’m just a big fan of mystery.
Zoomer: Why did you choose to incorporate web pages, news reports and the like in the narrative?
Zoomer: The book actually exists outside of its pages. Can you tell us about the app that supplements the novel?
MP: There is an app, and with that there are five short films that are windows into Night Film and give people a sense of it before they read the book. But then after you read the book, if you go back and watch the clips, you’ll have a new sense of what they are in the context of the novel. That being said, the novel itself stands on its own. So, if you never download the app or check out the footage online, you still get the heart of the story. Everything else is supplemental content, basically stories within stories, smaller threads that run throughout the narrative.
Zoomer: Throughout the book, there are references to literature, movies and poetry. What works influenced Night Film?
MP: It’s so hard to say because as a reader you read so much that at some point you put it all aside, and whatever is influencing you, it’s in a subconscious way. Obviously, the T.S. Eliot poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is a theme throughout the book. It just seemed to complement the Cordova’s life philosophy, giving insight into the way they lived their lives and, especially when you reach the end of the book, understanding why they lived their life that way and why they made the choices that they did.