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David Duchovny — yes, that David Duchovny — writes a tale for our time

His new novella ‘The Reservoir,’ set in New York City, probes how pandemic isolation has changed us


In “The Reservoir” (Akashic), a new novella by David Duchovny (he has four previous novels), a lonely man, further isolated by the pandemic lockdown of 2020, gazes across Central Park and thinks he sees a light flashing in an apartment window opposite his own.

Like the book’s main character, Duchovny lived on Central Park West through 2020, taking time-lapse photographs of the sunrise each morning. But there were other influences behind the novella, including Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice,” a book Duchovny calls “a tale for our time: a protagonist seeking connection — whether it’s sexual or emotional, physical contact — at a time when that would be deadly.”


Mann wasn’t the only influence, of course. “The ideas come from separate places until they form like a significant amount of mass that makes you think that the ideas can grow and cohere,” Duchovny said. He was also interested in “investigating how our brains are working in isolation, when you’re getting all your information from screens, and not from living, breathing human people.” Isolation, heightened by the pandemic, isn’t an unfamiliar literary fascination, he noted. “I would think every writer addresses loneliness in some way.”

Duchovny’s other job — as an actor, best known for his work in “The X-Files,” “Californication,” and many films — shares a lot with his writing life. “They’re both playful, they’re both attempts at play. That’s what art is; it’s just adult play,” he said.

Still, the two differ: While writing is a solitary pursuit, “acting is really like going to summer camp, remaining a child. The subject matter may be deep, but basically you’re going to play every day with the other kids.”

David Duchovny will read at 6 p.m. Monday at the Brattle Theatre.

Kate Tuttle, a freelance writer and critic, can be reached at kate.tuttle@gmail.com.