Sunday, November 25, 2007
A Little Sunday Reading v. 4

This week the New York Times announced their 100 Notable Books of the Year for 2007. The list is a blend of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. What I love about the list is (a) how exhaustive it is and (b) that no matter how religiously I read their book reviews, there are always great books that I haven't heard about.

Their number one book is the Abstinence Teacher which has been on my list for a while. I'm hoping to read it over the holiday break. has a list as well...they break it down into editors' picks and reader picks.

Speaking of the NYT and books, do you read Paper Cuts? It is a book blog written by their senior book editor and is all kinds of fantastic. My favorite feature is that every Wednesday they feature a writer's top ten song list. Lovely. Another great feature is that on Mondays they do a round-up of all the Sunday papers' book review sections. Brilliant.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I worked my way through a very fantastic but dense book. Special Topics in Calamity Physics defied my expectations. I expected to enjoy the story since I was so intrigued by the description:

Calamity Physics: The resulting explosion of energy, light, heartbreak and wonder as Blue van Meer enters a small, elite school in a sleepy mountain town. Blue's highly unusual past draws her to a charismatic group of friends at St. Gallaway and their captivating teacher, Hannah Schneider. A sudden drowning, a series of inexplicable events, and finally the shocking death of Hannah herself lead to a confluence of mysteries. And Blue is left to make sense of it all with only her gimlet-eyed instinct and cultural lexicon to guide her.

But I never expected to be so captivated by the story. Marisha Pessl received mixed reviews for this book. Many people found it a bit too detailed and even off-putting. The critiques are understandable. Pessl weaves her complex story with many, many literary references. At times it does seem that she is trying a bit too hard. Or at the very least, she is trying to name drop all the authors she has been forced to read over the years. (it should be noted that she is clearly incredibly well-read) To be sure, the book should not be shared with with every reader. At 514 pages, it is an investment. However, when the reader realizes that Blue truly does use literature and authors to guide her life, the many references are understandable and even enjoyable. While I did get a bit bogged down with all the details in the first 200 pages (the book took me forever to plow through), the last 200 pages were magical and I was glad I had stuck with it and paid attention.

The storytelling is impeccable. The characters are interesting. The dialogue is witty. The vocabulary is mesmerizing. I read somewhere that Pessl is only 28. To say the least, I am jealous. However, I am also so happy to discover another young writer to join the ranks of Eggers and Foer.

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Blogger Andi said...

I'm reading it now, and I LOVE IT. It took me a bit to get involved, but now that I am, I can't put it down. Blue is a great character, and I'm really enjoying her narration.

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