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Review: The Night Ocean by Paul LaFarge

Did H.P. Lovecraft write the Erotonomicon, a diary of forbidden sexual desire and experience? Did R.H. Barlow fake his suicide in Mexico City to live a new life in Montreal? Who is L.C. Spinks? What drove Charlie Willett to suicide. That is what Charlie’s wife, Marina Willett is determined to find out. But will Marina’s quest drive her to the madness that claimed Charlie? If you want to find out, read The Nigh Ocean, Paul LaFarge’s own Lovecraftian pastiche. Or is it parody? In either case, I would urge a prospective reader to pull back before it is too late.

The Night Ocean is not a good novel.

The plot is ridiculous and convoluted, surviving on the audaciousness of the salacious implication that H.P. Lovecraft may or may not have been fond of teenage hustlers. And R.H. Barlow. Before readers jump to Lovecraft’s defense (and spoiler alert!), the Erotonomicon is revealed to be a forgery. Like the rest of the various narratives designed to evoke Lovecraftian paranoia and madness.

It is all a bunch of hot air that does not even capture the evocative power of Lovecraft, even at his worse.

The characters are all flat and unrealized. Especially as the novel is told second and third hand.

Are there any redeeming features of the novel?

Yes. There is one.

I did enjoy the scenes of Barlow’s life in Mexico City before his suicide. That is, for me, the sole interesting thing in the novel. Pity the novel is not about Barlow in Mexico City.

Otherwise, this is just a truly terrible novel.