Special Topics in Calamity Physics
By Marisha Pessl
(Penguin Books, Paperback, 9780143112129, 528pp.)
Publication Date: April 24, 2007
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The mesmerizing New York Times bestseller by the author of Night Film
Marisha Pessl’s dazzling debut sparked raves from critics and heralded the arrival of a vibrant new voice in American fiction. At the center of Special Topics in Calamity Physics is clever, deadpan Blue van Meer, who has a head full of literary, philosophical, scientific, and cinematic knowledge. But she could use some friends. Upon entering the elite St. Gallway School, she finds somea clique of eccentrics known as the Bluebloods. One drowning and one hanging later, Blue finds herself puzzling out a byzantine murder mystery. Nabokov meets Donna Tartt (then invites the rest of the Western Canon to the party) in this novelwith visual aids drawn by the authorthat has won over readers of all ages.
Marisha Pessl is the author of Night Film and Special Topics in Calamity Physics, her bestselling debut, which was awarded the John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize (now the Center for Fiction’s Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize) and selected as one of the 10 Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review. She lives in New York City.
- Blue describes herself as a "Jane Goodall," an observer not a main actor. She is quiet, in thrall to her father, bookish, and solitary. What did you think of her when we first meet her? How does she change over the course of the novel? At the end, what new characteristics has she acquired?
Praise for Special Topics in Calamity Physics
“A whirling, glittering, multifaceted marvel, delivered in an irrepressibly smart and flamboyant new voice. . . . Q: Is Special Topics in Calamity Physics required reading for devotees of inventive new fiction? A: Yes.”
—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“The joys of this shrewdly playful narrative lie not only in the high-low darts and dives of Pessl’s tricky plotting, but in her prose, which floats and runs as if by instinct, unpremeditated and unerring. . . . This skylarking book will leave readers salivating for more.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“A blockbuster debut.”
—People (Critic’s Choice)
“Gripping and dark, funny and poignant . . . Pessl’s talent for verbal acrobatics keeps the pages flipping.”
“Witty and exuberant . . . Pessl’s pyrotechnics place her alongside young, eclectic talents like Dave Eggers, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Zadie Smith.”
“Hip, ambitious, and imaginative . . . It’s always refreshing to find a writer who takes such joy in the magical tricks words can perform.”
—Los Angeles Times
“A frisky, smarty-pants debut . . . An escapist extravaganza packed with literary and pop culture allusions, mischievous characterizations, erotic intrigue, murders, and unstoppable narrative energy.”
“Extravagant, witty and dark, Special Topics in Calamity Physics is a sprawling campus novel, an intricate murder mystery, a coming-of-age tale and a sly satire of intellectualism and academia. Her prose is . . . vivid, erupting in a freefall of wordplay, wisecracks, encyclopedia tidbits, and a barrage of cultural references. . . . Her enthusiasm for language is a delight.”
“There is a voice here to like, part Huck Finn, part Holden Caulfield, part Fran Leibowitz, and part Nora Ephron.”
“A real novel, one of substance and breadth, with an arresting story and that rarest of delights, a great ending.”
“Special Topics in Calamity Physics made me stay up all night reading; in the morning it seemed like one of those parties where everyone is too cool for you but you desperately want to know them anyway. It reminded me of my lost, bad-girl days. I loved this book.”
—Audrey Niffenegger, bestselling author of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry
“Beneath the foam of this exuberant debut is a dark, strong drink.”
—Jonathan Franzen, National Book Award-winning author of The Corrections and Freedom