Duchovny has worn many hats—actor, director, songwriter—but writing was always his first love. This is his first novella, following four successful novels (including last year's Truly Like Lightning). Unremarkable Wall Street trader Ridley took a buyout in 2009, and 11 years later finds himself in isolation during the worst of the COVID pandemic. From his high-rise apartment overlooking New York's Central Park reservoir, he has plenty of time to reflect on his failed marriage and his troubled relationship with his daughter. As a distraction, he takes nighttime photos of the apartment building across the park. When he sees a series of flashing lights, he has a Rear Window moment, becoming obsessed with the idea that a woman is sending out distress signals, so he responds with his own flashing lights. When he gets no reply, his obsession takes him outside for the first time in months to follow the woman when she exits her building. These forays take Ridley deep into the Ramble, a perilous part of the park known after dark for anonymous hookups among gay people. As Ridley engages in ever more dangerous behavior, the distinction between fevered hallucinations and suicidal risk-taking becomes blurred. VERDICT Inspired by Duchovny's self-reflection while sequestered in his own aerie above Central Park at the height of the pandemic, this work is provocative, challenging, and not without its moments of dark humor.—Beth E. Andersen
A wealthy New Yorker slips mentally off-kilter in this atmospheric yarn by the actor/writer.
Duchovny’s fifth work of fiction centers on Ridley, a former Wall Streeter who retired in middle age, giving him enough time to pursue banal art projects like a series of smartphone photos of the Central Park Reservoir taken from his high-rise window. Covid, which has recently arrived in the city, intensifies the divorced man’s isolation, which is also exacerbated by his contentious relationship with his daughter. As if to make up for her absence, he trains his gaze on a nearby apartment that he’s certain is occupied by a woman flashing distress signals. His ego swells: “He could star in his very own retrofitted-for-the-pandemic Rear Window. He could be her chivalrous knight, her Jimmy Stewart.” His derangement expands as he begins to follow the source of the signals into the park. A study of how internal concerns curdle into outward, tragic compulsions—particularly during an epidemic—the novel is a clear tribute to Thomas Mann’s classic Death in Venice; Duchovny cites it in the acknowledgments, quotes it in an epigraph, and introduces a homeless character wearing an army jacket labeled “Mann.” But Duchovny isn’t simply tracing over Mann’s plotlines and themes. Concerns about the distancing of technology, the shortcomings of the modern male ego, the fear of being out of touch, and the awkward push and pull of parenthood are all his own, and though the story is straightforward, it neatly captures Ridley’s slow decline in evocative, chilly prose that wouldn’t be out of place in a late Don DeLillo novel. Like his previous novels Bucking F*cking Dent (2016) and Miss Subways (2018), it’s a love letter to Duchovny’s native New York. But it’s also a smart story about obsession.
A slim, compelling tale of a man on the brink.
Additional praise for The Reservoir:
"Evocative, chilly prose that wouldn’t be out of place in a late Don DeLillo novel. Like his previous novels Bucky F*cking Dent and Miss Subways, it's a love letter to Duchovny's native New York. But it's also a smart story about obsession. A slim, compelling tale of a man on the brink."
"Inspired by Duchovny’s self-reflection while sequestered in his own aerie above Central Park at the height of the pandemic, this work is provocative, challenging, and not without its moments of dark humor."
“This swift and unnerving fever-dream of a novella, Duchovny's fifth work of fiction, is saturated with mythic and literary allusions and shaped by resonant riffs on Poe and Mann. At once philosophical and suspenseful, grandly imaginative and sharply funny, this mind-bending story of delusion and longing is a dark reflection of New York’s countless crimes and tragedies and much-tested resilience, emblematic of the suffering and tenacity of all of humanity.”
“This intelligent effort further burnishes Duchovny’s status as a gifted novelist.”
"David Duchovny’s existentialist novella is not to be missed. [The Reservoir] is a novel of many well-crafted and complex lines [and] Duchovny's writing is a combination of high and low—and yes, that distinction still exists, if barely. His metaphors and similes are arresting . . . The Reservoir is an important novel for how it captures, not just where we are now, but where we are forever. Disease—like Covid, or like tuberculosis in The Magic Mountain—takes us on a journey outward and at the same time inward."
“The progeny of our current pandemic is various: illness and death, of course, but also economic dislocation and personal isolation, the concept of ‘social distancing’ having quickly morphed from an advisory into a way of life. David Duchovny’s excellent new novella, The Reservoir, is a fever dream born out of this isolation.”
“Bump [The Reservoir] to the top of your summer reading list immediately.”
"David Duchovny writes like Bob Dylan, but in prose. There’s irony, poetry, there’s social commentary. There’s a brooding outrage. And there’s romance, too. The complex, multilayered novella, The Reservoir . . . is an easy-to-read, hard-to-forget page-turner."
“This beautiful fever dream of a novella put me in mind of Gabriel García Márquez because of its sense of romance—and humor—in the midst of calamity. I’ll never look at Central Park the same way.”
“A heartbreaking story of the cloaked complexities of father-daughter love framed as a sort of virtuoso suicide note. In its depiction of the breakthrough longings that come with growing older, it also struck me, wonderfully, as a contemporary Death in Venice.”
—Walter Kirn, author of Blood Will Out
“Biting and funny, The Reservoir is also deep and reflective. A mystery wrapped in a fever dream. A tale for our infectious times.”
—Chris Carter, director/writer, creator of The X-Files
“Equal parts Rear Window and The Plague, David Duchovny’s new novella is a wildly imaginative morality tale for these confounding times. With the Central Park Reservoir as his canvas, Duchovny paints a protagonist as quixotic as he is unreliable (or is he?). I had no idea where this story was headed, but I was down for the ride on every page.”
—T Cooper, author of Lipshitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes