The difference between terror and horror: Marisha Pessl on Strombo


First aired on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight (15/12/13)

Marisha Pessl's latest novel, Night Film, introduces readers to Stanley Cordova, a reclusive director whose films are so terrifying they can only be seen through secret underground viewings. The films are also so real and so disturbing that rumours are that what's on-screen isn't fiction -- these crimes actually happened. And when Cordova's strange and beautiful daughter is found dead, well, that's when things get really weird -- and terrifying.

Night Film is frightening, and that's the entire point. "It was very much the exploration of fear, writing this book," Pessl told George Stroumboulopoulos. "Fear of writing a second novel because that unto itself is terrifying but also finding out how to be scared in this day and age. Is it possible?"

Pessl is quick to point out that fear can come from a variety of places and that terror is very different from horror. "There's terror and then there's horror," she said. "And I love terror because terror is fear over what we don't see but feel we're about to see. While horror is revulsion plus fear over what we've just seen."

Night Film, obviously, is heavily influenced by the movies. Cordova's place in film history is carefully crafted and the book is very cinematic. But Pessl assures readers she is a novelist first and foremost. "I love the format of the novel. You can go wide and you can go deep. You don't have to worry about paying for extra scale. You can have a cast of millions and everyone is working for free."

Highlights on CBC Books: