Wednesday, March 8, 2017
The Night Ocean Review (aka - Do I Really Care About Lovecraft's Romatic Life???)
AUTHOR: Paul La Farge
PUBLISHER: Penguin Press
PUBLISHING DATE: March 7, 2017
FROM GOODREADS: Marina Willett, M.D., has a problem. Her husband, Charlie, has become obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft, in particular with one episode in the legendary horror writer's life: In the summer of 1934, the "old gent" lived for two months with a gay teenage fan named Robert Barlow, at Barlow's family home in central Florida. What were the two of them up to? Were they friends--or something more? Just when Charlie thinks he's solved the puzzle, a new scandal erupts, and he disappears. The police say it's suicide. Marina is a psychiatrist, and she doesn't believe them.
A tour-de-force of storytelling, The Night Ocean follows the lives of some extraordinary people: Lovecraft, the most influential American horror writer of the 20th century, whose stories continue to win new acolytes, even as his racist views provoke new critics; Barlow, a seminal scholar of Mexican culture who killed himself after being blackmailed for his homosexuality (and who collaborated with Lovecraft on the beautiful story The Night Ocean); his student, future Beat writer William S. Burroughs; and L.C. Spinks, a kindly Canadian appliance salesman and science-fiction fan -- the only person who knows the origins of The Erotonomicon, purported to be the intimate diary of Lovecraft himself.
As a heartbroken Marina follows her missing husband's trail in an attempt to learn the truth, the novel moves across the decades and along the length of the continent, from a remote Ontario town, through New York and Florida to Mexico City.
The Night Ocean is about love and deception -- about the way that stories earn our trust, and betray it.
MY THOUGHTS: I'm gonna be honest and admit this book confused me. I think it's been a while since I've read a book that I just feel indifferent about. I didn't hate it but I didn't really love it either. I read it pretty fast which is saying a lot because it's about 400 pages and it's pretty dense material. Apparently there was something driving me to finish it and I never even wished I could DNF it.
This book is basically three different tales. Marina Willett is a psychiatrist and is married to Charlie, an author who writes about people. Charlie becomes obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft and sets off to write a bestseller about his inappropriate relationship with a 17 year old, Robert Barlow. Charlie locates Barlow, who had previously faked his death, and with his interviews, the book becomes a giant success. However, shortly thereafter, scandal hits and people start speculating that Barlow is actually L.C. Spinks, an individual out to tarnish Lovecraft's reputation. When everything blows up, Charlie ends up hospitalized and eventually commits suicide, although a body is never found. Marina, who loves her husband despite his numerous flaws, doesn't believe Charlie is actually dead so she starts investigating herself.
The first 100 pages or more of this book is all about Lovecraft and Barlow. Through the pages of a fictional book "The Erotonomicon," the reader learns all about Lovecraft's strengths, weaknesses and his love life. I found these pages somewhat hard to get through and because the terms describing sexual acts are from Lovecraft's books, I felt a tad in the dark. After that, the book moves to Marina investigating Charlie's disappearance. I enjoyed this part of the tale so much more because I liked Marina's voice and I actually felt more connection to her than any other character in the book. Finally, through Marina's investigation, we learn about Spinks and what Charlie learned from him that possessed him to take his life. For people who find the "fake news" stories of today fascinating, this will more than likely be an enjoyable book.
The mystery in this tale is pretty unsatisfying and I would be hesitant to classify it as such. To be honest, this book is pretty hard to classify in general. I'm not sure who to recommend it to but I'm sure fans of Lovecraft will be curious what it is all about and will find some worth in picking it up. I don't regret reading it because it's nice to read outside one's comfort zone, but I would never pick it up again.
I received a copy from the Penguin First to Read program in exchange for an honest review.
RATING: 3 PAWS