Schultz’s (Jill, 2012, etc.) novel looks at the apocrypha surrounding an infamous lost film.
In this metafictional work, a fictionalized version of the author describes a film that he claims is real, although he acknowledges that many people believe it to be an urban legend. At the same time, he attempts to publish this account with a fictional publisher. If the plot sounds tangled, that’s sort of the point, as this novel is set in the underground world of rare, lost, and legendary independent films, where the smoke and mirrors surrounding a movie can prove more deceptive than those used to make it. The film, known as The Cornfield People, among other titles, is a low-budget neo-noir shot between 1999 and 2001. It follows a journalist at a paranormal publication investigating the eponymous secret society, which is willing to go to great lengths to protect their esoteric knowledge of life and death. The book opens with a foreword explaining that this book is actually the second edition of A Book About a Film, the first having been so explosive that the publisher was forced to redact it, due to an apparent shadowy conspiracy working to keep all knowledge of the film from the public. Even so, “there are still many out there who object to this version as well, as they believe what is reported in these texts are a threat to everyone,” says the foreword’s author. Schultz then offers an annotated, scene-by-scene account of the film, along with supplementary materials; the texts become progressively more sinister as the film’s plot begins to bleed into events of the “real” world. Overall, the novel’s conceit is rather ingenious. However, the author unfortunately gets in his own way when it comes to its execution. The story’s tension is undercut by its jocular tone, and the author isn’t enough of a skilled ventriloquist to successfully mimic the array of critics and film experts whose quotes populate the text. Additionally, the film at the center of book simply isn’t persuasive enough to support all the marginalia. Although this book is fun at times, readers will be left wishing that it had just a bit more polish.
A story with a great premise that never quite takes flight.