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The Night Ocean: Book summary and reviews of The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge

The Night Ocean

by Paul La Farge

The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge X
The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge
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  • Published Mar 2017
    400 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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Book Summary

From the award-winning author and New Yorker contributor, a riveting novel about secrets and scandals, psychiatry and pulp fiction, inspired by the lives of H.P. Lovecraft and his circle.

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. La Farge delivers insights into the human need to believe in stories and the nature of literary fame, while consistently upsetting readers' expectations… [H]e outdoes his predecessors with this crafty mix of love, sex, and lies." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. La Farge is this virtuoso, folding stories inside stories with ease… An effortlessly memorable novel." - Kirkus

"It can be difficult to tell at times whose story this is, moving as it does from Lovecraft to Barlow to Charlie and finally to Marina. Yet, in the end, it's clear this is ultimately about stories; how we shape them, and their power to shape us in return." - Library Journal

"Magnificent. The Night Oceanis an impossible, irresistible novel, a love letter to the unloveable that speaks the unspeakable." - Lev Grossman, author of the Magicians trilogy

"A whole damned hustling heart-broken double-talking meaning-haunted world it is a privilege to enter." – Peter Straub

"Paul La Farge has crafted the perfect novel – a work that constantly twists into unexpected realms, that illuminates the nature of love and deception, and that is as funny as it is profound. The Night Ocean is a gift to readers." - David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z

"The Night Ocean had me from the first sentence. This immensely original, elegantly written and continually surprising novel casts a spell that keeps us enthralled until the book's brilliant conclusion." – Francine Prose, author of Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932

"The best novel of the year, almost any year. Historical, hysterical, fanatically attuned to the nuances of language and character, its mission, in its own words, is to 'begin the almost impossible work of loving the world.' It succeeds and then some, but it does more than that. It opens the window and airs out our stuffy literature. It is a book of light and laughter." - Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story

This information about The Night Ocean was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Paul La Farge Author Biography

Paul La Farge's novels include The Artist of the Missing (1999), Haussmann, or the Distinction (2001), Luminous Airplanes (2011) and The Night Ocean (March, 2017); and a book of imaginary dreams, The Facts of Winter (2005). He was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Bard Fiction Prize, and fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. He was a fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library in 2013-14. He lived in upstate New York, and died in January 2023, aged 52.

Author Interview
Link to Paul La Farge's Website

Name Pronunciation
Paul La Farge: Paul LaFarge (Farge rhymes with "barge")

Other books by Paul La Farge at BookBrowse
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