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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Special Topics in Calamity Physics

A quick, and unpretentious as always, review.

The book was good. Not so good that my gnawing jealousy of Pessl's winsome Aryan beauty and adoration by the cognoscenti of lit-crit was inflamed and I got depressed. Nope, just good enough so I was like, "Hey, Marisha, I'm happy for you girl; you really did a good job and made me laugh and a little scared and even somewhat thoughtful, but you know what, I don't feel like a speck of dust in your massive shadow! At all. You're better than that Safran-Foer distaster, but like him, you were overhyped. It ain't your fault, but still. An aspiring writer who blog-crastinates has a right to be satisfied about that."

A few other thoughts:
  • Pessl's so-called pyrotechnics of canonical references weren't so high-falutin' as all that--they were standard English major fare. We're talking Ode on a Grecian Urn and Wuthering Heights, here. Not even Lacan or any of that mad pretentious shit. I actually liked that aspect of it, I just don't get why the critics were all like "ohmigod she's so smart." Shouldn't they be hip to her citations? Also, Pessl managed to weave a lot of the quotations in quite seamlessly and satisfyingly. However:
  • Her long introductory passages referencing obscure tomes of psychology and criminology should have been wayyy cut down. This would have improved the book tremendously.
  • I relished both the central mystery and the portrait of prep school life. But Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep, though smaller in scope, was a better novel of that type; you, know the "psuedo-outsider gazing at the horsey silk stocking blue blooded adolescents dotting the manicured lawn of her elite prep school with mouth agape" genre.
  • I thought Blue Van Meer's dad was a ridiculous and frustrating character, but extremely funny at certain moments.
  • As a rule, I would have liked more character development, less cache.
  • I was actually scared during parts of the novel. Whether that makes it good or me a wuss, I can't say.
  • That is all. My next reading project is Allegra Goodman's Katerskill Falls. I've been reading way too much Westporty stuff and I need to take a detour to the Catskills, fast, if you dig what I mean, readership.

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