Flicker by Theodore Roszak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sometimes a book hits all your interests all at once, and there's really nothing else quite like it out there. Flicker, as a book, is closing in on 25 years old, and yet this book felt far too much like something that was relevant and on-trend today as it may have been when it was written, and that says a lot.
The story, on the surface, is about a man, Jonathan Gates, who falls in with the art film crowd and becomes enamored with a specific filmmaker who specialized just as much in important artsy filmmaking as he did the sort of schlock Roger Corman and the like are known for. As Gates begins to do more research on this filmmaker, he begins to slowly unravel something a lot more strange, including a multi-generational conspiracy, religious cults and propaganda, Old Hollywood (and some of the Code-era figures as well) and a whole lot more.
I do wonder if Marisha Pessl has read this book, because the mood in this is reminiscent of Night Film (another book I absolutely adore), but this goes a lot deeper. For sure, a lot of my love of this book in particular is that it's so willing and able to dive into existing, little-known conspiracy theories and effortlessly incorporate them into a story that traverses decades without feeling too long or overambitious. In an era like today where the "new weird" is taking hold, reading a book that would, in a lot of ways, fit right into the existing trendy oeuvre is just icing on the cake for me, as there's just enough here to keep you on the fence as to what's actually going on here, and the way Roszak opts to end the story is just as weird and fascinating as it is completely out of left field, and is a tactic I really appreciated.
This book won't be for everyone. If long-winded diversions of sorts featuring a fictional Orson Welles or deep-rooted European Christian conspiracy cults aren't your bag, you might be bored or frustrated with parts of this story, but if you're looking for something kind of meaty without being overly literary or over-the-top, you might want to take a flier on this one. Absolutely one of the most immersive literary experiences I've had in recent memory.
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