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.
"La Farge's fourth novel is a playfully disorienting tour through the biography of the horror master H. P. Lovecraft, as well as a portrait of a number of men, both fictional and real, who try to decode his life and work...La Farge has great fun constructing texts with contradictory information about the young man, the most entertaining of which involves William S. Burroughs, the strangest Lovecraftian of all."- The New Yorker
"I've always been too timid to read H. P. Lovecraft novels and to experience the eldritch wonders within, but I'm greatly enjoying Paul La Farge's new novel, The Night Ocean, on Lovecraftian themes. Like Murakami, La Farge keeps a foot in the familiar while leading you on his eerie adventures." -Sarah Larson, The New Yorker
"A beauty of a tale...A book full of pleasures...Dashing, playful and cleverly imagined, The Night Ocean emerges as an inexhaustible shaggy monster, part literary parody, part case study of the slipperiness of narrative and the seduction of a good story."- D. T. Max, The New York Times Book Review
"A fascinating, labyrinthine story....La Farge treats readers to two equally compelling and dubious stories....a reminder that in spite of our best efforts, sometimes the truth really is beyond our comprehension." -Boston Globe
"The plot unfolds like a series of Russian nesting dolls, and thrillingly so: Like the best of Lovecraft, this novel questions the capacity of language to describe reality with accuracy...The Night Ocean proves to be more than a great read-it's a timely meditation on the challenge of separating artist from art and the limits of human understanding." -Chicago Review of Books
"[La Farge] carries it all off with breathtaking skill and panache....[S]pare yourself the trouble of trying to divine what's true and what's fiction in "The Night Ocean" and just go along for the ride." -The Washington Post
"A breathtaking novel inspired by HP. .Lovecraft, this story takes fan fiction to new levels. It's intricate, original, and a thrill of a read."- Cosmopolitan (Best New Books for Spring)
"La Farge's rabbit-hole mystery ranges from ancient cultures to modern chat rooms, but hangs together in one woman's absorbing voice." -New York Magazine, "8 New Books You Need to Read This March"
"A complicated and beautiful demonstration of people trying to live and love in a world of unknowns....Powerful." -BOMB
"With this intoxicating trip into the twin worlds of imagination and reality, La Farge gives new meaning to fan fiction in his exploration of the world of H.P. Lovecraft and the legacy he left behind." -Newsweek
"This is a formally and emotionally limber novel that pulls you in as a black lake might, except that it's also funny, and transformative, and illuminating-it's a book of spells if I've ever read one." -Lit Hub
"[La Farge] has surpassed himself. The Night Ocean is the ultimate crossing of the hazy boundary between reality and fantasy....A mighty boon to horror geeks like me who misspent a good portion of our youths reading the pulp fiction of Lovecraft and his unholy minions." -BookPage
"What a great book...Highly recommended but be prepared." -The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society
"Remarkable...The Night Ocean is a fabulous novel, in the quite literal meaning of that: it's about tricksters and literary hoaxes and secret identities, but it's really about the fables we make to construct, or discover, or invent ourselves, and about how much we can really get away with." --Locus
"This many-layered literary mystery is chockablock with surprise appearances." -BBC.com, "Ten Books You Should Read in March"
"As we traverse a shifting narrative web that spans continents, decades, and spiritual dimensions, La Farge's inventive and absorbing fifth novel reveals that questions relating to love and horror are not always mutually exclusive." -Chronogram
"For a novel about H.P. Lovecraft, The Night Ocean is surprisingly moving; for a story abo
Paul La Farge is the author of the novels The Artist of the Missing (1999), Haussmann, or the Distinction (2001), and Luminous Airplanes (2011), as well as The Facts of Winter (2005), a book of imaginary dreams. His stories and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, The Believer, McSweeney's, Nautilus, Conjunctions and elsewhere. He has won the Bard Fiction Prize, two California Book Awards, and the Bay Area Book Critics' Award for fiction. In 2013-14 he was a fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the New York Foundation for the Arts.