Greetings from the Land of Enchantment: Special Topics in Calamity Physics--A Book Report

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Special Topics in Calamity Physics--A Book Report

Well, I will try to not allow my review to be tainted by my "duly-noted" yet unable to drop envy of a woman in her twenties able to write such a tome (over 450 pages my friends) and not be mired in the typical narcisim and self-congratulatory tone of most under 30 authors (and over 30 if you read Michiko's recent review of Franzen's new memoir); much to my delight, this first novel is entertaining.

I spent my holiday weekend on the couch reading the new book by Marisha Pessl. For a first novel, I found it entertaining, compelling and often hard to put down (hence finishing over the course of 3 days). Of note are the often (over) used metaphors--the most charming of which I found to be: her head hung like a squirt of toothpaste; there are many, many other examples to the point that you begin to skip over them looking only for nouns and verbs. Other interesting techniques are the cites found throughout the book--as though it were a research paper of sorts. They range from charming references that you catch just from the title to overly academic, and most likely, fabricated titles to suit her purposes. However, there was some charm in describing someone's expression by referencing a certain scene in a movie, or a point of argument by a quote from Napoleon. But like the metaphor, it grew a bit straining (and strained) by the end of the novel.

Now one would think for such an adventurous novelist as far as technique and style, Pessl would have explored the boundaries of narrative a bit more, but it seems that her first crush is with language more than story. I found it a bit hard to believe--the ending, that is. It's all a bit too forced and too tidy. That Blue walks off into the horizon (at least it's not sunny) with the charming but "unchallening" lad she had all but humilitated from earlier in the book is a stretch--as is the ending re: the father. I don't want to give too much away, because despite it's flaws (it's over-eager to impress style), it's a page turner and you won't be disappointed to have found a new author to look forward to. But, let me say, for the record, that her comparisons to Donna Tartt are premature.


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