Friday, September 01, 2006


The other night I went to a reading at the incomparable Skylight Books.

There was a buzz before the reading for one simple reason: the flashy, newly released book, "Special Topics in Calamity Physics," written by a young, first-time novelist named Marisha Pessl, has already gained universal praise and its author has earned comparisons to novelists like Zadie Smith, Dave Eggers, and Jonathan Safran Foer. Some reviews have even compared the novel to Nabokov.


I guess I went with a healthy bit of skepticism and interest--this kind of hype is usually counter-productive, though I was curious as's also worth noting that many folks expect "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" to be turned into a film. When asked that exact question, Ms. Pessl said she'd love to see a movie adapted from her novel.


The reading was relatively short, and Pessl is charming--her prose is flamboyant and witty, though to be honest, I wasn't sure I could tolerate 500 pages with her protagonist, the precocious teenager, Blue Van Meer. Blue is verbose and a bit of a show-off, but the reviews of the novel have all suggested that the pyrotechnic writing soon settles down into an old-fashioned murder mystery and relationship story between a girl and her father. Okay, sounds good.

So I bought the book (but I'll keep the receipt, just in case). 'Cause I take Nabokov comparisons very seriously. Though it seems that every year or two there's a "new Nabokov." Whatever that means. But with reviews like this, I can't help but be interested. And here's the thing: I want it to be good. I really do. Who buys a book and doesn't want to be wowed? But how often does that happen...?

Well, anyway--it's the literary season of Marisha Pessl, and I wish her the best of luck with her next novel (which she said she's already writing), and I hope that my twenty-five bucks was well spent...