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Special Topics in Calamity Physics by…

Special Topics in Calamity Physics (edition 2007)

by Marisha Pessl

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5,649271755 (3.65)319
Title:Special Topics in Calamity Physics
Authors:Marisha Pessl
Info:Penguin Books (2007), Paperback, 528 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

  1. 152
    The Secret History by Donna Tartt (Eumenides, shellibrary, Littlemissmops)
  2. 20
    The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff (lyzadanger)
    lyzadanger: Precocious young women in small towns.
  3. 20
    The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (zhejw)
    zhejw: I loved both books, but Pessl's is a notch up in language, character development, and plot. Lockhart's is the place for teens to start.
  4. 10
    The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews (SqueakyChu)
    SqueakyChu: Both books offer in-detail insights into life as a young adult when interacting with others.
  5. 10
    The Marriage Plot: A Novel by Jeffrey Eugenides (kinsey_m)
  6. 43
    Likewise: The High School Comic Chronicles of Ariel Schrag by Ariel Schrag (lorax)
  7. 10
    I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (Littlemissmops)
  8. 10
    My Latest Grievance by Elinor Lipman (SqueakyChu)
    SqueakyChu: Both books offer sharp humor offered by a student.
  9. 00
    The Likeness by Tana French (Sammiwithani)
    Sammiwithani: Also about a group of elite school friends dealing with a mysterious death in their circle
  10. 00
    The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman (Lillydarlene)
    Lillydarlene: The intensity of friendship that comes with being in high school, and with being an isolated group, with a dark secret in the background. Both of these are good if you've read The Secret History and are hungry for a similar feel.
  11. 11
    Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (lycomayflower)
  12. 11
    Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson (Mossa)
  13. 00
    The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall (krist_ellis)
  14. 12
    The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (krist_ellis)
  15. 01
    Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday (sarahemmm)
    sarahemmm: This is worth trying if you like the unusual format of Pessl's book.
  16. 34
    Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld (SqueakyChu)
    SqueakyChu: Both books look at issues encountered by one particular student.

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» See also 319 mentions

English (256)  Dutch (7)  French (5)  German (1)  Norwegian (1)  Danish (1)  Italian (1)  All (272)
Showing 1-5 of 256 (next | show all)
Recommended by Tina

So far I'm finding it interesting, if not a little pompous. I think it's wonderful that the writer has such a firm grasp on vocabularly, I'm sure she aced the verbal part of the GRE. And it's kind of fun reading the descriptions of people and how she annotates them.

I like the quirkyness of the main character Blue. But I'm intimidated by her intelligence. At times I also feel slightly insulted because I'm not more like her - I'm too giggly, girly, interested in things other than just books. Sometimes her descriptions of people who aren't like her are almost a slap in the face, as if those of us who aren't as smart as Blue couldn't possibly contribute anything to the world.

I think I feel this way because this is how the staff is treated by most of our faculty. We're not PhDs and therefore our opinions, thoughts, our lives even are just not worthy of their attention or time (unless it relates to their money).

But we'll see...I'm suckered in and enjoying it anyway.

NO WAY!!!! This is an awesome book! Sure, it's a bit wordy, a bit too academic, but at the same time I totally LOVE Blue and all her quirks. You never see it coming. Never. And the story gives you all these clues without saying, "HEY! This is a clue!" like so many other mystery novels do.

This was well worth the read. I did, however, skim over some paragraphs when I felt like it was just too much. It's almost like the author wants us to see how smart she is by annotating every single thing over and over again. One metaphor for a person or situation isn't enough. She has to include three or four and then annotate them. While I think the annotating stuff was really interesting, I got tired of reading five paragraphs describing the same metaphor over and over again. Enough already!

Also, I wish I knew what happened to Jade. In the beginning of the book Blue gets a call from Jade. Jade's somewhere locked up for something. Why? How and when did she get there? What is she going to do now? And what about the others? Does Blue ever come forward with her knowledge of her dad and Baba?

These loose ends don't bother me. I like them. It's just stuff I'm pondering.

I would love another book about Blue. She's an interesting character. It's interesting how little dialogue she actually participates in. That was okay too. She was wordy enough. We get to know her character through her narration and the cold words of the others. (Damn Milton for saying she was like tuna! Damn him!)

Man...the characters. Wow, I just loved how fleshed out they all were. Her dad was so awesome. I loved his character. He's fascinating. I love the relationship between Blue and her dad. I love how at the end it gets more intimate even if it means that she's throwing books at him - but it was the first real interaction she has with him that she initiated. Most of the time I felt like she was following her dad around, doing things he suggested but that she never actually initiated anything with her dad. Then at the end as things start to unfold she has that moment where she finally lets out any and all pain she's had over her dad. I don't think it was just because of Hannah, but really her entire life of being lied to, of being strung along.

For all the love her father had for her...it's disappointing he had to leave her. His ego, pride, narcisism stole him away from her. She was leaving him anyway to go to school, but even then parents and children can still keep in touch. Now she'll never see him again unless he wants her to.

( )
  wendithegray | May 1, 2017 |
Woo-eee! This book is DENSE, like an old growth forest, and it's tough to see the trees. I would really like to see what's between the author's ears, with this, her first novel at age 27. It is too long by at least 4 chapters, but what starts out as an amusing "oh high school really sucks" tale becomes like a reference book, chock full, actually overflowing, with imaginary references and mysterious characters. Towards the end there's an incredible shock and then so much more comes tumbling after. It is a marvel, but save it for when you are stuck in the house for a number of days - even the swiftest reader must take pause at the beauty and truth of the language. Quote: "I hated when people participated in what Dad called "Sing-along Sorrow" ("Everyone's eager to mourn so long as it's not their child who was decapitated in the car accident.")" Absolutely astonishing work. ( )
  froxgirl | Oct 23, 2016 |
Perhaps generously, 1½* for a plot that was contrived (though the ending was quite guessable) but only showing any "plot twists" until well over half-way through, and with a painfully artificial style that would have been acceptable only for a story of greater interest. ( )
  CurrerBell | Jun 28, 2016 |
Blue van Meer isn't all that different from other teenage girls, other than she's exceptionally smart and has lived in far too many places for someone so young. Her father, Gareth van Meer, is an eccentric and affably lovable presence in Blue's life, who, as a restless college professor, routinely accepts new job positions all across the country. This is why Blue is so well-traveled, but she adores her father so it's a comfortable arrangement. (Blue's mother passed away a decade before.)

On the cusp of finishing high school but nevertheless starting out anew once again—this time it's at the St. Gallway School in Stockton, North Carolina—Blue falls in with a questionable clique of friends who call themselves the Bluebloods. Through them she is introduced to the curious and socially unwieldy Hannah Schneider, a film teacher at the school, whose relationship with the Bluebloods is more like a permissive older sibling than as an authority figure. And, little does Blue know, her life is about to be forever changed.

Unlike most books I finish, persevering through Special Topics in Calamity Physics was a hard-earned effort. Marisha Pessl has composed a complex narrative comprised of nuanced character development, ostentatiously long sentences and a smattering of cultural references, often directly cited, scattered about like sprinkles on a cake. And, I didn't check, are any of the citations made up? A few seem like inside jokes. Some readers may be turned off by the book's overt cleverness, but it grew on me. Like I said, hard-earned. It was as if I could feel my reading skill leveling up after each chapter. By the end, the story coalesced so unexpectedly that I now consider it one of my all-time favorites.

Side note: Randomly, while I was about 2/3rds of the way through, I picked up and skimmed a few pages from another novel. It was an average paperback for the masses, but since I was already heavily immersed in Marisha Pessl's world, the variation in quality between the two was jarring. The difference was like tasting a fine Cabernet Sauvignon vs chugging a grape juice soda. ( )
1 vote Daniel.Estes | May 23, 2016 |
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl is narrated by Blue Van Meer, daughter of a highly intelligent but itinerant history professor Gareth. Blue's mother died in a tragic car accident when she was 5, and since then she has traveled across the country, from one university or college to another with her father. Blue is telling us her life story, but more specifically, the story of her senior year of high school when she was attending the elite St. Gallway school. There she became part of an elite group of students who were protégé's of part time film instructor Hannah Schneider. We know right at the beginning that Hannah Schneider dies but need to hear Blue's story told in her own unique way to learn what happens.

In Special Topics in Calamity Physics, each chapter is the title of a novel from a core curriculum. Novels (chapters) included: Othello, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Wuthering Heights, The House of Seven Gables, The Woman in White, Brave New World, Pygmalion, A Moveable Feast, Sweet Bird of Youth, Deliverance, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Bleak House, Justine, Things Fall Apart, The Trial, Paradise Lost, and Metamorphoses, to name a few.

There is a mystery that needs to be solved but it's not until the very end that you piece all the facts together, even though you may have some questions long before then. Blue is an extremely intelligent young narrator who frequently quotes various other books or scholarly works in her narrative. Pessl also has Blue cleverly include drawings of pictures in the text as numbered visual aids. (Others can be seen on the author's website.)

While this is a very clever novel, I can see where the incessant references to other sources could become exasperating due to the sheer volume of them for some readers. Although, in the end, they perhaps help to prove that Blue's intellectual capacity surpasses that of her father' (It's not until page 468 we find out the reason for the book's title.)

I would highly recommend Special Topics in Calamity Physics. http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/
( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
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Her exhilarating synthesis of the classic and the modern, frivolity and fate — “Pnin” meets “The O.C.” — is a poetic act of will. Never mind jealous detractors: virtuosity is its own reward. And this skylarking book will leave readers salivating for more.


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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pessl, Marishaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Card, Emily JaniceNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dad always said a person must have a magnificent reason for writing out his or her Life Story and expecting anyone to read it.
"Unless your name is something along the lines of Mozart, Matisse, Churchill, or Bond--James Bond--you best spend your free time finger painting or playing shuffleboard, for no one, with the exception of your flabby-armed mother with stiff hair and a mashed-potato way of looking at you, will want to hear the particulars of your pitiable existence, which doubtlessly will end as it began--with a wheeze."
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Book description
Special Topics in Calamity Physics, the dazzling debut of Marisha Pessl, is a buoyant combination of comedy, tragedy, mystery, and romance, a story of disturbing secrets and the eccentric high school student who uncovers them. It is a coming-of-age tale and a disturbing mystery. a snapshot of the dark relationship between ideology and violence but also the poignant tale of a young woman learning to stand on her own.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143112120, Paperback)

?Dazzling,? (People) ?Exuberant,? (Vogue) ?marvelously entertaining,? (The Dallas Morning News) Marisha Pessl?s mesmerizing debut has critics raving and heralds the arrival of a vibrant new voice in American fiction. At the center of this ?cracking good read?4 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:51 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

In a plot modeled after the syllabus of a college literature course, teen narrator Blue Van Meer and her father Gareth end ten years of wandering by settling in Stockton, N.C. There, Blue befriends, sort of, a group of eccentric geniuses (referred to by their classmates as the Bluebloods) and their ringleader, film studies teacher Hannah Schneider. As Blue becomes enmeshed with Hannah and the Bluebloods, the novel becomes a murder mystery when a friend of Hannah's dies at a party the kids have crashed.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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