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The Night Ocean

3.31  ·  Rating details ·  2,469 ratings  ·  514 reviews
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
Hardcover, 389 pages
Published March 7th 2017 by Penguin Press
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Average rating 3.31  · 
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 ·  2,469 ratings  ·  514 reviews

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Dan Schwent
Feb 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, 2017-books
When Charlie Willet disappears, apparently commits suicide, his wife Marina explores the last couple years of his life, looking for reasons to believe he's still alive. Did Charlie's obsession with the Erotonomicon, the purported story of HP Lovecraft's affair with Robert Barlow, and the web of lies and hoaxes surrounding it lead to his doom?

Even though I rarely take on ARCs anymore, I jumped at the chance to read this one when Penguin offered it to me.

The Night Ocean is a tough book to classify
Doug H
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
The first 100 pages or so held my interest, but it was mostly prurient interest. In retrospect, I should have dropped it when I felt the urge shortly after that. The entire middle section with Barlow and Burroughs in Mexico bored me to tears and it didn't get much better after that. Also, I currently have little patience for novels that mix historical characters with false documents and fake facts. (I get more than enough truth-yanking from the Bannon/Trump presidency these days.) I'd rate this ...more
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Just wow. The sheer insanity of reading his behemoth in one day actually kind of goes along with the sheer awesomeness of this book. And to think I was merely expecting a bibliomystery. Night Ocean is so much more, it's the stacking doll of storytelling, where the inventions are weaved into real life facts so seemingly, it'll make you question the fabric of reality itself, much as it did to its characters. There are quite a few storylines here, all connected, enough for several books, all e ...more
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: publisher, reviewed
Reinvention, reincarnation, delusions or just flat out lies (sometimes known as alternative facts) - you can never be sure exactly what you are dealing with in this book, but it was certainly different and fascinating. The story is told by Marina, a psychotherapist married to Charlie a nonfiction writer, but there are stories within stories here. At the start of the book, Charlie has just killed himself by drowning, but Marina is not convinced that he is dead. Charlie had become obsessed with ho ...more
Apr 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Paul La Farge's THE NIGHT OCEAN is a flat out brilliant imagining of the Lovecraft real life literary world of the 20th and 21st centuries. Funny, infuriating, melancholy, just a joy to read. ...more
Mogsy (MMOGC)
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

The Night Ocean is not my usual genre, I confess, but its subject matter was simply too enticing to resist. While it’s true that I’ve always been drawn to books inspired by the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, perhaps just as interesting—if not more so—are the stories about the man himself. A pioneer of weird fiction, his lasting influence on the horror genre can be seen all around us, and yet, there is also a darker side to hi
I'm on a roll. This is the 17th book I've given one star to so either:

1. I'm being stricter, meaner or just plain vicious with my ratings.
2. I'm having crappy luck picking good books.
3. More crappy books are being published.

Or a little bit of each...

Either way, I only have myself to blame because I didn't heed the warning reviews from my fellow Goodreaders.

The Night Ocean is centered around an author, Charlie, and his obsession with renowned horror author H.P. Lovecraft and his possible
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: u-s-lit
Sometimes – okay, fairly often – I will get an encouraging message from Goodreads dba Amazon, something like this: Based on your I-hated-this-book-so-much-I-wanted-to-slash-my-throat shelf, we’d like to recommend . . . . As if they could get rid of me with just one more bodice-ripper. Ha!

But, lo, just last week, my inbox yielded one of their ‘New books by authors you have read’ ticklers. And there was the name: PAUL LA FARGE. Well. I, along with at least four other people, had read and loved H
 Reading Reindeer 2021 On Proxima Centauri
Review: THE NIGHT OCEAN by Paul LaFarge

A stunning and complex novel. THE NIGHT OCEAN is an extraordinary literary contribution to fiction focusing on the life of Weird Fiction icon H. P. Lovecraft. It has impacted me as powerfully as did Jacqueline Baker' s THE BROKEN HOUR, published in April 2016. Both novels vivify, but not idolize, HPL, who as an individual was troubled, often fearful, and certainly not politically correct.

THE NIGHT OCEAN, in its exploration of "truths" in Lovecraft' s life,
Feb 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
All I can say is Wow! LaFarge crams a lot into his story. You have Lovecraft and his circle, World War II, Mexican History, William S. Burroughs and so much more.

I don't want to spoil the massive page turner that this was. As soon as it becomes available try and find a copy.
Mar 31, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
At any point during the reading of this book, I could have set it down, not finished it, and it wouldn't have bothered me at all. It is fairly decently written, but I am at a quandary just FOR whom it is written. There can't be all that many readers interested in not only the minutiae of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft's life, but also that of tangential figures Robert Barlow and Leo Spinks. La Farge structures his historical novel as a series of nesting dolls - we get first Lovecraft's story, then ...more
Kelli Bragg
Mar 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
As other readers have noted: "Pretty soon, I got lost in the details of the story - and not in a good way...I'm sure I missed something somewhere but for the life of me, I couldn't fathom the point of this story."

Advertising it as a mystery about a wife's disbelief that her husband committed suicide and her attempt to get to the truth was quite the lie. Instead, it's boring fact after boring fact about Lovecraft and whether or not he was gay, and chapter after chapter of the author presenting in
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book reads as if La Farge wanted to write a realistic novel about a troubled marriage between a psychoanalyst and a hipster, but he got bored with his characters (can't blame him, to be honest) and decided to expand it into a roman a clef about semi-obscure 20th Century literary figures. Maybe La Farge thinks that his two epic digressions, which provide contradictory accounts of the same McCarthy-era scandal, comprise some sort of meta-comment on the nature of storytelling. Actually, it's a ...more
Jan 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I suppose this would have been doubly interesting, had I been a fan of H. P. Lovecraft or, at the very least, read any of his work. I am not and have not. But be that as it may, this still made for good reading. Charlie likes to write investigative essays, journalistic. A seeker. He starts on a Lovecraft journey, segueing the orbit about him. Deeper and father, as his wife, Marina narrates. She works in the psychiatric field. She knows obsession. Charlie becomes quite so. Finding those lost (int ...more
Dec 13, 2016 rated it liked it
After some inner turmoil, I decided to go down the middle with a three star rating for this book. I hated the beginning of it and that persisted until nearly the halfway point in the story, where I began to see the rest of the tale, and the point in the story emerge.

Whilst I tend to love literary tales and especially ones that involve mysterious history, the language in this book made it a struggle to slog through until I could adjust to it. The author did a good job telling the story, but ther
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Well that was odd.

I loved Carter & Lovecraft so when this story came up on NetGalley I couldn't resist. A psychiatrist’s husband becomes obsessed with Lovecraft then mysteriously disappears?!?! I cried Cthulhu and sat down to read some spooky supernatural stuff.

Yeah, that wasn't this book.

This book is about the lives and loves of homosexual writers of the 30s through 50s with a little Keyser Söze thrown in. It was interesting in a life-is-sometime-stranger-than-fiction way but I did not enjoy
Ghoul Von Horror
Oct 21, 2020 rated it did not like it
Release Date: March 7th, 2017
Genre: Historical fiction/Suspense
Rating: 🎃 0.25

About the book: 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 mo
“Wherever he looked, he found a false floor of facts over a yawning basement of legend, the floor of which was also false.”

The original “The Night Ocean” (1936) by Robert Barlow was about a weary artist who struggles with loneliness. He visits a remote resort town while he awaits the results of an art competition. During this time the town is plagued by multiple drownings. As the town empties out at the end of the season he sees figures on the beach but as he calls out to them they vanish se
Loring Wirbel
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Within 20 pages of the opening of The Night Ocean, I was angry at the book and angry with Paul La Farge, for taking liberties with historical figures in the manner of Mark Binelli's Screamin' Jay Hawkins' All-Time Greatest Hits. As the tidal rhythm of the book grabbed me, the mesmerizing grip of the story couldn't be denied. By the closing chapter, however, I was angry once more with the seemingly endless deceptive layers of the antihero L.C. Spinks. But then I read the author's acknowledgements ...more
Dec 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge is a fantastic Russian nesting doll of a tale. Narratives are within narratives are found within narratives as we read about the lives of real-life authors H. P. Lovecraft, Robert Barlow and fictional character L. C. Spinks. Focusing on early to mid century science fiction fandom, the book doesn't require knowledge of the field, all you need to bring to the table is maybe the idea that there is no such thing as identity and that who one is and who one was might j ...more
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Very very clever, I suppose, and the first couple of hundred pages held my interest. The invented (within an invention) love story of Lovecraft and Barlow was rather engaging, as were Barlow's misdoings with Burroughs in Mexico City. But then La Farge nested in a few more Russian dolls of misdirection and a few too many footnotes on obscure horror/sci fi writers of the first 1/2 of the 20th century, and I began to feel that reading was a penance, not a pleasure.

Perhaps in my 2nd half-century I w
Sep 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: reviewed, 2017
Given this option, which would you pick: 1) a month in 1920s Paris with Hemingway and Stein and Channel and the earliest set of Nazis invaders (there pretty much for looting and drugs and sex) or option 2) a month in 1950s Mexico City with Lovecraft, Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg. Cassidy, and probably the largest, and cheapest, variety of sex and drugs in any one place at any one time on planet Earth. I'm going for option 2, mainly because...well, for obvious reasons. But I think the TRUE sexual ...more
Jul 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
A return to form for Paul La Farge.
Kevin Adams
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Having never read anything by H.P. Lovecraft (but everything by Paul LaFarge) I was a little skeptical if I would be able to keep up and understand the little nuances that an author, writing about another author, may include. I was blown away. The Night Ocean is so amazingly told, brilliantly written and unputdownable that one should start it on a Friday night and cancel all the plans you have for the weekend until you finish (this is assuming you have a "9 to 5er" job which doesn't allow you to ...more
Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A story within a story within a story and lies upon lies. It straddles the line between genres. It's mystery, historical, drama, but also doesn't neatly fit into those categories. Really unique, which means a lot of people will hate it (Lovecraftians because it has Lovecraft in it and others because it's too literary, plus it has many an unlikeable character). Definitely worth a read. ...more
Bryan Alexander
The Night Ocean is an unusual novel. One of its subjects is the American horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, but I would not classify it as horror, and Lovecraft is not the main focus. Another subject is Robert Barlowe, a Lovecraft fan, writer, and historian. He's the focus of most reviews I've seen, but he gets crowded out by the book's second half. Other readers have seen the book's framing device as key. This is a story told by psychotherapist Marina Willett as she tries to understand the death or ...more
Feb 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovecraft fans, Lovecraft haters, old gents, closeted gay WASPs, squamous racist authors
H.P. Lovecraft has been the subject of much scholarship, criticism, and dissection over the past few years, with his pivotal place in modern genre fiction being cast against his infamous views, which are now obligatory to mention in the same breath as his name, because otherwise I suppose someone might read The Call of Cthulhu and not know that the author was a racist. (Personally, I find it rather amazing that in tales of Lovecraft, there are always supposedly fans who never knew what a bigot h ...more
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
The overall plot was original, the interweaving of fictional and historical characters was interesting and the writing was good enough to keep me from quitting, although about halfway through I started speed reading, just to find out how it all ends. The interminable quarrels of the Futurists and other Lovecraft fans were deadly dull, and the characters ranged from detached (Marina & Charlie), to unpleasant (Barlow, Spinks) to downright yucky (all the minor character Lovecraft fans). I’m not a r ...more
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc
This is a novel that is enigmatic mystery wrapped in historical and honest prose. Marina is never quite able to catch up and as a reader you're cheering for her while simultaneously trying to stay steps ahead of Lovecraft or Barlow. There is a love story seeped in want and need that is always teetering at the edge of unrequited satisfaction. Characters searching for truth and answers, though it is sometimes indistinguishable as to what is actually true and what is an interpretation of the truth. ...more
Netgalley provided me with free digital access to this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

I love a good literary mystery. They sort of make me yearn for those years of furious research and writing while an English Lit major. Although the story itself isn't 'fun', I had fun reading this weird weird book. It would have been even more fun if I had known more about all the names dropped in this who's-who of 20th century sci-fi writers.
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Paul La Farge is the author of four novels: The Night Ocean (The Penguin Press, 2017); The Artist of the Missing (FSG, 1999), Haussmann, or the Distinction (FSG, 2001), and Luminous Airplanes (FSG, 2011); and a book of imaginary dreams, The Facts of Winter (McSweeney's Books, 2005). He is the grateful recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Bard Fiction Prize, and fellowships from the New York F ...more

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