If there’s any justice, the first chapter of LITERARY WUNDERKIND Marisha Pessl’s MUCH-AWAITED SECOND novel, “Night Film,” should go down in literary history as among the most notable formal innovations of this century. It consists of a series of Web pages — 20, all told — pertaining to the untimely death of a young woman, the strange career of her filmmaker father, and AN ENSUING JOURNALISTIC INVESTIGATION.
Both the writing and the design are feats of verisimilitude: Pessl and her designers ape perfectly a New York Times obituary and a Time magazine slideshow, from the irascibility of Internet commenters (“God forbid something be dark, freakish, and so unnerving you question your commercialised, corporate-sponsored view of the world”) to Facebook “Like” buttons. Many of the evocative and completely plausible photos therein were staged especially for the book, using actors that Pessl auditioned herself. They pop up in the newspaper clippings, Web pages, and police dossiers, SIFTED BY A CRUSADING WRITER, that appear throughout the book.