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New Meeting: Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

From: Greg
Sent on: Thursday, March 27, 2008 10:07 PM
Announcing a new meeting for a ne{o}lit book club!

What: Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

When: Wednesday, April 23, 7:30 PM

Voluntary meeting fee: USD1.00 per person

Where: Click the link below to find out!

Meeting Description: As discussed at March's excellent meeting, we'll next be reading Marisha Pessl's first novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Having already started it (I'm all the way on page 6!), I can say that it looks to be quite a vibrant, heady book that's got an odd yet upbeat voice. I'm curious to keep reading.

A brief summary, cribbed from a review by the Washington Post:

A self-absorbed scholar and a young girl crisscross America by car, flitting through college towns where they endure ill-advised sexual encounters, heartache and a potent dose of popular culture. Studded with ingenious wordplay and recondite allusions, their story veers between highbrow comedy and lowbrow tragedy as it careens toward a couple of ambiguous murders and some crafty detective work.

Ten points if you identified this as the plot of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. Extra credit if you also recognize it (minus the pedophilia) as the plot of a much-ballyhooed first novel by Marisha Pessl, who tackles the art of fiction by vigorously associating everything in her book with something else. Constructing the novel as if it were the core curriculum for a literature survey course, complete with a final exam, Pessl gives each chapter the title of a classic literary work to which the episode's events have a sly connection: Chapter 6, "Brave New World," describes the first day of a new school year, while in Chapter 11, "Moby-Dick," a large man drowns in a swimming pool.

Along the way, there are thousands of references to books and movies both real and imagined, as well as an assortment of pen-and-ink drawings. The book's young narrator, Blue van Meer, has fiercely embraced her father's didactic advice: "Always have everything you say exquisitely annotated, and, where possible, provide staggering Visual Aids." Blue's cross-referencing mania can be surprisingly enjoyable, because Pessl is a vivacious writer who's figured out how to be brainy without being pedantic. Like her protagonist, she's eager to make good use of the many books she's read and the movies she's seen. And she loves similes like a fat kid loves cake (Blue would annotate this properly as a line borrowed from the rapper 50 Cent), never settling for one per page when three or eight will do.

See youze guyz in April!

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