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Special Topics in Calamity Physics by…

Special Topics in Calamity Physics (edition 2007)

by Marisha Pessl

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5,224253849 (3.65)286
Title:Special Topics in Calamity Physics
Authors:Marisha Pessl
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (2007), Paperback, 528 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:2007-10, fiction, literature, growing up, father, daughter, high school, philosophy, night watchmen, the night watchmen, conspiracy, laurie

Work details

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

Recently added byneaira, private library, pife43, mjspear, eskimonika, KelMunger
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    SqueakyChu: Both books offer sharp humor offered by a student.
  4. 10
    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.
  5. 10
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    SqueakyChu: Both books offer in-detail insights into life as a young adult when interacting with others.
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    SqueakyChu: Both books look at issues encountered by one particular student.

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» See also 286 mentions

English (238)  Dutch (7)  French (5)  German (1)  Norwegian (1)  Danish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (254)
Showing 1-5 of 238 (next | show all)
Read too long ago to review at this time. I do recall it being a novel that I enjoyed very much at the time, though. ( )
  pife43 | Jul 23, 2014 |
A literary tour-de-force where the telling of the tale is more than the tale itself... while ostensibly a coming of age who-done-it, it's chock full of clever literary references and actually a celebration of literary research.

Blue Van Meer and her larger-than-life professor father Gareth share a close-knit intellectual world. As a visiting professor, they travel around the US and inlulge in a heady collegiate world of literature and wit. They arrive in a small town in North Carolina and under the influence of emotional/ethereal film teacher, Hannah Schneider, and a motley crew of "bluebloods" (think: Mean Girls gone coed), Blue begins to experience a world beyond books and beyond her imagining.

Part road trip (Blue and Gareth read classical tomes, recite poetry, argue semantics en route) part Coming of age (Blue's first sexual encounter -- not explicit--, physical makeover into a present day teen, gaining a voice (she was dubbed 'the pigeon') and loss of innocence (not everyone is as they appear... least of all, her father) part murder/mystery (who killed Hannah Schneider?) and a complete celebration of all things literary.

This book is not an easy read but for those who enjoy literary references, a well-turned phrase, and a sometimes-snarky look at the dumbing-down of America, Special Topics.. is special indeed! ( )
  mjspear | Jul 22, 2014 |
A very different and likeable book about Blue Van Meer, and her father Gareth, who is a professor who finally takes a year off from moving on the lecture circuit so that Blue can do her senior year at one school and get into Harvard. Blue is overly educated and has read it would seem most books written and of course has a genius IQ, Her father is an exceedingly handsome intellectual. Blue meets a group of students who hang with Hannah Schneider the film studies teacher and most of the story is about these relationships. The least enjoyable part of the book is the constant reference and stories about her Dad - and it is obvious that she has become just an extension of him since the death of her mother. The book begins with Blue writing about finding Hannah dead from strangulation with an electrical cord. The rest of the book fills in the blanks. ( )
  CarterPJ | May 27, 2014 |
An amazing first novel.
( )
  MmeKristine | Apr 21, 2014 |
Did that just happened?

Correction: What just happened?

Seriously, because I am bundles of confusion, and I need a Rosetta Stone to decipher what I just read. I really wanted to like Special Topics. I have no idea. I just had an irrational need to do so. It happens but every time it does happen, I end up severely disappointed.

Kind of like I am now.

Severely disappointed.

The truth is that I did like the harmless aspect of the story: a very precocious teenage girl is tired of traveler life with her very smart but arrogant father and wants to spend her senior year in one place. I would have invested in that kind of growing pains story. Pessl could have even kept the highly annoying Bluebloods since variations of them undoubtly exist in any high school setting.

I liked the main character Blue Van Meer. She was a combination of Dawson Leery and Juno.

Sure, it might have been slightly cliché and would not have been Pessl's magnum opus but it would have sufficed. It's evident that Pessl is a very good writer so she could have made the cliché work. However, she decides to throw in the weird Night Watch radical conspiracy theory along with the Gareth-Natasha-Hanna Schneider connection and it just may everything go haywired.

What was that?

Did Hanna kill herself?

Was she murdered?

By Gareth?

Why did Gareth abandoned Blue?

Then, Pessl had the audacity to leave everything extremely vague and confusing.

Am I missing the point of this novel?

Did I miss the point?

Can anybody tell me what happened? ( )
  Y2Ash | Apr 16, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 238 (next | show all)
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.


» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Marisha Pesslprimary 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.
Haiku summary

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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:17:41 -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)

» see all 6 descriptions

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