Special Topics in Calamity Physics
  • Special Topics in Calamity Physics
  • Special Topics in Calamity Physics

Special Topics in Calamity Physics

3.5 116
by Marisha Pessl
     
 

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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,

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Overview

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 some—a 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 novel—with visual aids drawn by the author—that has won over readers of all ages.

Editorial Reviews

Janet Maslin
Marisha Pessl’s Special Topics in Calamity Physics is the most flashily erudite first novel since Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated. With its pirouettes and cartwheels, its tireless annotations and digressions, it has a similar whiz-kid eagerness to wow the reader.
— The New York Times
Donna Rifkind
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.
—The Washington Post
Vogue
Place[s] the author alongside young, eclectic talents like Dave Eggers, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Zadie Smith.
Los Angeles Times
Hip, ambitious and imaginative.
The New York Times Book Review
This skylarking book will leave readers salivating for more. 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.
Critic's Choice People
Pessl's literary pyrotechnics are just a sideshow; it's her irresistible heroine Blue who makes the novel's heart beat. (People, Critic's Choice)
The Christian Science Monitor
Wholly original and riotously entertaining.
Salon.com
An arresting story and that rarest of delights, a great ending. (Salon.com)
The New York Times
Required reading for devotees of inventive new fiction.
Publishers Weekly

Pessl's showy (often too showy) debut novel, littered as it is with literary references and obscure citations, would seem to make an unlikely candidate for a successful audiobook. Yet actor and singer Emily Janice Card (a North Carolina native like the author) has a ball with Pessl's knotty, digressive prose, eating up Pessl's array of voices, impressions and asides like an ice-cream sundae. Card reads as if she is composing the book as she goes along, with a palpable sense of enjoyment present in almost every line reading. Her girlish voice, immature but knowing, is the perfect sound for Pessl's protagonist and narrator Blue van Meer, wise beyond her years even as she stumbles through a disastrous final year of high school. Card brings out the best in Pessl's novel and papers over its weak spots as ably as she can. Simultaneous release with the Penguin paperback (Reviews, May 22, 2006) (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
Precocious Blue van Meer is used to moving around with her professor father, who travels from job to job and affair to affair. But she's not prepared for the consequences when both a friend and a favorite teacher die tragically. A much-touted debut; with a seven-city tour. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Donna Tartt goes postmodern in this eclectically intellectual murder mystery. Blue van Meer, daughter of a womanizing widower, has spent her entire life following her erudite father on six-month stints to the small posts he chooses at obscure universities. During her senior year in high school, though, she convinces him to let her stay put for the entire academic year, which she will spend at the St. Gallway School in Stockton, N.C. There, while immediately proving her academic prowess by besting the presumed valedictorian, she also finds herself courted by an intriguing faculty member, Hannah Schneider, and is reluctantly accepted into her group of student followers: Milton, Charles, Leulah and Jade, each of whom seems to be hiding something about their past. The group meets at Hannah's every Sunday for international cuisine and intellectual banter, and soon Blue is also going on social excursions with the girls and secretly lusting after Milton. Things go awry when Blue and her compatriots break into Hannah's house and witness the mysterious drowning of one of Hannah's friends. The drowning becomes a rallying cry for the group to find out more about their teacher's secret life. The plot thickens again when Hannah herself dies, leaving Blue to put the pieces together and determine the truth. Who was Hannah Schneider really? What was the nature of her various relationships? And why did she welcome Blue into her clique so readily? The writing is clever, the text rich with subtle literary allusion. But while even the gimmicks work well (chapters are structured like a literature syllabus; hand-drawn visual aids appear throughout), they don't compensate for the fact that The Secret Historycame first. Sharp, snappy fun for the literary-minded.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143112129
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/24/2007
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
528
Sales rank:
199,540
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
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.”
—USA Today

“Witty and exuberant . . . Pessl’s pyrotechnics place her alongside young, eclectic talents like Dave Eggers, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Zadie Smith.”
—Vogue

“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.”
—Entertainment Weekly

“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.”
—Miami Herald

“There is a voice here to like, part Huck Finn, part Holden Caulfield, part Fran Leibowitz, and part Nora Ephron.”
—Harper’s

“A real novel, one of substance and breadth, with an arresting story and that rarest of delights, a great ending.”
—Salon

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
 

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