The Ghost Notebooks by Ben Dolnick

Feels like: Gone Girl meets The Haunting meets George Saunders

Sounds like: “Wait” by Wild Cub

“This is a thing that I’m sure is obvious to everyone else but is never-endingly astonishing to me: that every change, every life, consists of nothing but a series of days.” 

I wish I hadn’t read this book so quickly, but I couldn’t help it. I ate it up. I consumed the tiny details of the haunted museum, the documentary style precursors to each chapter, the emphatic free-flowing association of jumbled thoughts and feelings through phantom experience, the waterfall of sensory information and memories that comprise the human experience. I ate it all like they were going to take it away from me, like I would never taste it again. In only a few voracious days I was done, and dizzy with wanting The Ghost Notebooks back. If you have anything better to do with your life, read with caution. This is horror-avantgarde-George-Saunders-ian art.

Ben Dolnick’s psychological stunner of a novel opens with Nick, a failed musician turned music producer who is attempting to understand the nuances of his relationship to other people, particularly to Hannah, his long-term girlfriend. When Hannah loses her job as a curator in the city, she decides to take the position as the museum director of the noticeably desolate and rural Wright Historic Museum. The mansion belonged to Edmund Wright, a prolific writer of the nineteenth-century, who was known to dabble in some mysterious other-wordly ideas in his latter years. Nick and Hannah move into the museum in order to run it, but what awaits them is, in short, haunting.

What Dolnick does so well and so accurately is describe a visceral sense of panic. When Nick describes his terror, his unease, his denial, his every infinitesimal discomfort, we feel it. I feel it, because Dolnick writes sorrow like a diary. He writes loss like he’s felt every inch of it before, all the physical aspects of grief. For example, there’s a scene in which Nick is desperately searching for Hannah in the woods outside the museum. He’s wearing a button-up that has one button missing, and Dolnick describes the patch of cold that enters through the empty square in his shirt. That’s the kind of detailed pain we have here.

I’m so happy this exists.

I received a copy of this book from Net Galley for an honest review.

Memorable Quotes (I know, there’s a lot, but they were just so good): 

📖He would, with the precision of a scientist and the sensitivity of a man of letters, set down on paper all the suffering that a person could reasonably expect to experience in his life, and then all of the pleasure.”📖

❤️”Couples should carry dry-erase boards for writing messages to each other; their voices convey too much.”💔

🌧”If you listen to sobbing long enough, and if you’re tired enough, the sound breaks off from its meaning and becomes something else. One minute it sounds like an animal trying to throw up; then like someone shivering on an ice floe. At its most intense, it sounds—and this is somehow especially horrible—just like someone laughing hysterically.”🌧

🥀”And right then, as my dad signaled for the check, it seemed to me that my mom must have been thinking what I was thinking: that every house is a haunted house. I’d been thinking a lot about the Wright Museum, of course, and how unbearable it would be if I ever set foot there again. But now I was thinking about the house I’d grown up in, where my mom still lived—three stories, pale blue, with the beige driveway and the taped-over doorbell—and I could see it surrounded by the ghosts of men working in their gardens and girls carrying gym bags and dogs going bald. And I could see us haunting it too, younger versions of ourselves trailing around with bags of microwaveable popcorn and broken plastic laundry baskets and—but I was too tired to finish the thought.”🥀

📚”Am I, this trembling, hallucinating ball of sinew, really any stranger of a creature, any more improbable of an object, than a ghost?”📚


You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: