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November 2015

Blackened Lights Please…Draw Curtains

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“Alliances with the devil often manifest themselves in virtuosic mastery of an instrument.”

An angelic young girl with winning good looks and a extraordinary talent for tickling the ivories; physically has all the potential a parent could want for in a prodigy in the making. Couple that with a fearlessness, curiosity, and a thirst for knowledge and she could rule the world if she so chooses, everything a parent says, but is typically lip-service to make it seem that anything is possible. As her talents grow and her life settles the world begins to throw its counter-punches causing her to feel the effects as her life takes a turn. Ashley Cordova slowly becomes a manic young woman that for the most part is a thought incomprehensible to everyone around her, leaving them in search for a reason behind her dramatic change.

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Every man fell in love with her grace and every girl was in awe of her presence. Traveling through the underground of New York moving eerily reminiscent of a vaporous evil spirit that is animalistic among the shadows; her life is going the wrong way on a one way track. Some would surmise that from a generational standpoint that this happens to every child at one time or another during their teenage years, but there is something very peculiar about this case. For one she lived a life of privilege being the daughter of a renowned artist considered more of a magician or a hypnotist than a filmmaker named Stanislas Cordova, but with that she also lived a life of isolation in an estate where if its walls could talk it would be wailing IT’S TOO LATE, YOU’RE ALREADY DEAD.

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“New York hit its residents daily like a great debilitating deluge and only the strongest – the ones with Spartacus- styled will had the strength to stay not just afloat but on course. This pertained to work as much as it did to personal lives. Most people ended up, after only a couple of months, far, far away from where they’d intended to go, stuck in some barbed underbrush of a quagmire when they’d meant to head straight to the ocean. Others outright drowned (became drug addicts) or climbed ashore (moved to Connecticut).”

The closer you got to Cordova the more irrational you become, seduced by his presence your mind turned to mush leaving judgment to the wayside and a weakness apparent to the one that preyed. It wasn’t so much the weakness that manifested but the fallibility of being human that is ingrained. The story of Ashley Cordova is a complex one that has great intrigue but also with an ending that leaves even more questions than answers. The people that came into contact with her in the big city talked of her ‘face of death in the devil’s coat’, her red spirit and other mystical elements that marked her for death. There’s not many people in this world fit to find out, but one man may have the right kind of motivation to unearth the truth.

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“The shadow is what people are hunting throughout the tale. Or else it can dog the hero, refusing to leave him alone. It’s a potent force that bewitches as much as it torments. It can lead to hell or heaven. It’s the hollow forever inside you, never filled. It’s everything in life you can’t touch, hold on to, so ephemeral and painful it makes you gasp. You might even glimpse it for a few seconds before it’s gone. Yet the image will live with you. You’ll never forget it as long as you live. It’s what you’re terrified of and paradoxically what you’re looking for. We are nothing without our shadows. They give our otherwise pale, blinding world definition. They allow us to see what’s right in front of us. Yet they’ll haunt us until we’re dead.”

Scott McGrath has been able to maintain a balance between his personal and professional life throughout the grind of his demanding schedule. At home he’s a loving husband, and a doting father to his young daughter. From a professional standpoint he makes his living as a sometime author and teacher, but primarily as an investigative journalist for an entertainment magazine. The quality that has made him a successful journalist today is also the factor that will eventually come back to bite him. Scott has never been the type of writer to play it safe, he doesn’t shy away from getting to the heart of a story even if it sends him to the devil’s playground. Whether it has him traveling to the dangerous parts of Africa talking shop with voodoo enthusiasts or breaking into the home’s of subversive sociopathic film makers; he love’s the thrill of the chase. To Scott there was no glory in being second or third to get the story, he had to be the first even if it killed him.

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“It’s what we chase but never find. It is the mystery of our lives, the understanding that even when we have everything we want it is one day to leave us. It’s the something unseen, the lurking devastation, the darkness that gives our lives dimension.”

Flash forward five years and we see that Scott has officially hit rock bottom. He is unemployed after being fired for floating around unsubstantiated rumors about a man suspected of a laundry list of offenses, none worse than that of being a child molester or even a killer. These allegations ruined Scott’s career, his reputation, his marriage; essentially his whole life was destroyed. He scarcely sees his daughter due to a custody struggle which resulted in an ironclad visitation agreement. He now spends his time drinking scotch in his New York city apartment, or sweating the hangover away. It isn’t until one night he sees a frantic, unwashed young lady in red with a thousand yard stare seemingly running from or toward something in the darkness. In a mere moment she vanishes out of thin air. It isn’t until the following morning that he finds out that the woman fell to her death and that she also happened to be the daughter of the man who has haunted him for the past five years. New found motivation or ill-fated deception? Whatever it is, Scott’s about to find out, even if it finally finishes him off for good, but what else does he have to live for?

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Night Film by Marisha Pessl is a monster of a book in more ways than one. First off it checks in and around six hundred pages which is enough to scare off even the most courageous reader. Secondly the author utilizes a multimedia approach to highlight interviewing techniques, deep web forums, or medical reports which emphasizes the story and makes it all the more frightening and believable even if it is a little artsy-craftsy and gimmicky. There are also plenty of unique characters that help balance out the weight of the subject byway of humor, exuberance, naivete, insanity, and even a little romance. As the story reveals itself you find yourself getting lost in the puzzle that even at the infant stages seemed daunting, but somehow became even more arduous as you proceed through the concept of illusion vs. reality and the cat and mouse game that is life. You begin to wonder to yourself how fleeting the mind while reading, or if it’s simply a case where the author had too much fun writing than it was for me reading. I’ll go with the latter for this one.

“Scientists look for aliens in the universe, but they’re here. Aliens who pass for men. They’ve already invaded.”

 

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