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Special Topics in Calamity Physics Paperback – Apr 24 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 1 edition (April 24 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143112120
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143112129
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.8 x 21.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #107,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Pessl's stunning debut is an elaborate construction modeled after the syllabus of a college literature course—36 chapters are named after everything from Othello to Paradise Lost to The Big Sleep—that culminates with a final exam. It comes as no surprise, then, that teen narrator Blue Van Meer, the daughter of an itinerant academic, has an impressive vocabulary and a knack for esoteric citation that makes Salinger's Seymour Glass look like a dunce. Following the mysterious death of her butterfly-obsessed mother, Blue and her father, Gareth, embark, in another nod to Nabokov, on a tour of picturesque college towns, never staying anyplace longer than a semester. This doesn't bode well for Blue's social life, but when the Van Meers settle in Stockton, N.C., for the entirety of Blue's senior year, she befriends—sort of—a group of eccentric geniuses (referred to by their classmates as the Bluebloods) and their ringleader, film studies teacher Hannah Schneider. As Blue becomes enmeshed with Hannah and the Bluebloods, the novel becomes a murder mystery so intricately plotted that, after absorbing the late-chapter revelations, readers will be tempted to start again at the beginning in order to watch the tiny clues fall into place. Like its intriguing main characters, this novel is many things at once—it's a campy, knowing take on the themes that made The Secret History and Prep such massive bestsellers, a wry sendup of most of the Western canon and, most importantly, a sincere and uniquely twisted look at love, coming of age and identity. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

After 10 years of traveling with her father, a perennial (and pedantic) visiting lecturer at various, obscure institutions of higher learning, Blue Van Meer finally settles in as a senior at the St. Gallway School in Stockton, North Carolina. There she is bemused to find herself part of a charmed circle of popular kids called the Bluebloods and the protege of the mysterious film-studies teacher, Hannah Schneider. When a friend of Hannah's dies at a party the kids have crashed, this extravagantly arch and self-conscious coming-of-age novel turns into a murder mystery that--although never as Hitchcockian as its publisher claims--is, nevertheless, almost compelling enough to warrant its excessive length. Intriguingly structured as a syllabus for a Great Works of Literature class, Pessl's first novel is filled with references to invented books--and to some real ones, too, including several by Nabokov. Overkill? You bet. But, as a result, the novel is generating a great deal of buzz that will excite the curiosity of readers who enjoy postmodern excesses and indulgences of this sort. Michael Cart
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Rossiter on March 6 2007
Format: Hardcover
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl is a book that I was really looking forward to reading. I loved the character of Blue and her pedantic professor father. I loved Pessl's writing style, her imagery, her language. The love affair lasted until roughly the end of the first third. Then I considered writing to the publishers to suggest that they retitle it Marisha Pessl's Big Book of Similes. By page 200 I was counting the number of similes per page, then by paragraph. This was not a good sign. By page 250 I was ready to throw the book across the room and I was only about half way through it. I get annoyed when authors write very long books when it isn't necessary. I get annoyed when editors don't say "You know this book would be much better minus about 150-200 pages". I start mumbling under my breath about Tolstoy. The centre section of this novel had me thinking that Pessl is a clever writer but more flash than substance with a certain amount of self conscious "look at what I can do" to her. But I thought about how much my son said he loved the book so I plowed onwards. And I'm glad I did. Around the beginning of the final third of the novel Pessl throws in a plot twist (whatever you do, don't read the back of the dust jacket) and the book takes off. Suddenly I was totally engrossed in the story and back in love with our narrator, Blue. The writing became tight and focussed with somewhere to go and something to say. That part of the novel met my expectations.. This is a first novel for Pessl and I'm hoping she will realize that she can write and that she doesn't need to put in every beautiful phrase that has ever come to her. She can save some for her next novel.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. Catalano on June 15 2007
Format: Paperback
The other review is bang on. The book starts well, gets you involved in the characters, starts to ramble intellectually and then picks up like a freight train towards the end. The author's literary, film and cultural citation is astounding and awe inspiring. I can only imagine she must have an IQ close to her heroine's purported 175 to have read and internalized all of those references. Alas I am not so smart so many of them were way over my head but it didn't stop me from enjoying the book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jacquelyn on Sept. 28 2007
Format: Paperback
This book was FANTASTIC. Yes, as the other reviewers have said, it's very long (a door-stopper of a book), perhaps I even agree with the reviewer who said it could have been trimmed down, but STILL: that doesn't change my opinion. The author's verbal acrobatics are astounding. There were astonishing metaphors and similes everywhere, but I didn't find them annoying, they were amazing. The plot did indeed pick up in the last third of the book, and for two or three days now I have done nothing but sit glued to this book. The New York Times wouldn't have rated it one of the 10 best of the year for nothing. Read it -- you'll never forget it.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Dennis Lee on Sept. 10 2012
Format: Hardcover
A common thread to the previous reviews seems to be the length and detail of the first two-thirds of the book; the author's penchant for detail and literary references is exhaustive (positive and negative). Yes, it does take a turn for the dramatic when the murder of a central character occurs; you think "aha, now it gets good...getting through the first part of the book was worth it!" However, I found the end rather unsatisfying, and incomplete. The book is very much about style. Hopefully we'll see another from the author - with more substance.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. W. Exp on Sept. 15 2007
Format: Paperback
Though I laughed, at times, I soon got irritated by the constant references - mostly fake. The characters are interesting, the plot is good but it is too much of a farce.
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