Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Special Topics in Calamity Physics

Special Topics in Calamity Physics features the Epic Tale of one Blue van Meer. Full of words like "Timberlaked" and "paninied" (as in sandwiched) and oddly capitalized Special Events as well as endless numbers of book quotations and citations (see The Book of Books and Their Citations, Torchlite Publishers, 1989), this book is entertaining and insightful for most of its 700 plus pages.

Blue van Meer is a remarkably unique voice emerging from the pen of Marissa Pessl (who is from Ashville BTW). Not unlike other young, plucky, wiser-than-their-years heriones of late (see Juno, 2007), Blue is presented with a much-larger-than-normal slice of life's problems in her senior year of high school in Stockton, N.C. This book confidently creates its own world with memorable characters and slowly entraps you into wanting to know all the unexpectedly conspiratorial details behind the murder of a teacher at Blue's elite private school.

To begin quoting this book is to quote the whole thing but here are a few to tide you over until you can read it for yourself:

"Denial is like Versailles; it isn't the easiest thing to maintain."

"Very few people realize, there's no point chasing after answers to life's important questions," Dad said once in a Bourbon Mood. "They all have fickle, highly whimsical minds of their own. Nevertheless. If you're patient, if you don't rush them, when they're ready, they'll smash into you. And don't be surprised if afterwards you're speechless and there are cartoon tweety birds chirping around your head."

On walking while being tipsy: "I stood up and tried to make my way to the door, but my legs felt as if they were being asked to measure the universe."

On being on a stakeout: "We were stationed somewhere, oceans from home, afraid of things unseen. Leulah was shell-shocked, back straight as a flagpole, her eyes magnetized to the door. Jade was the senior officer, crabby, worn-out and perfectly aware nothing she said could comfort us so she only reclined her seat, turned on the radio and shoved potato chips into her mouth. I sort of Vietnamed too. I was the cowardly homesick one who ends up dying unheroically from a wound he accidentally inflicts upon himself that squirts blood like a grape Capri Sun."

"If that weren't enough to knock the wind out of me, she had to go entirely Southern Gothic, dragging the Devil and his grin into it, and whenever someone with a fudgethical Southern accent said devil, one inevitably felt they knew something one didn't-as Yam Chestley wrote in Dixiecrats (1979), 'The South knows two things through and through: cornbread and Satan' (p. 166)."

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