Thursday, April 03, 2008

asleep on the balcony after class

There have been very few books that elicited some form of verbal outburst from me. Captain Corelli's Mandolin is the only book that made me cry, I shouted out "You fool!" while reading The Meaning of Night, and most recently I said "Whoa!" not once but twice while reading Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl.
Obviously, I'm going to highly recommend this book. But, and this is a big BUT – don't read it on your own. If you're going to read it, and I suggest you do, make sure a friend, loved one, bus buddy, or neighbour down the hall is reading it as well. Why? By the time you round third base and head for home, you're going to want someone to talk to, someone who is right where you are and says "It made me say "whoa!" out loud!" to which you'll reply "me too!"
Otherwise you'll end up like me, imploring a loved one to stop reading her current book and immediately start Special Topics in Calamity Physics. The problem of course, will be that the loved one may not want to stop reading the current book (even if it looks wholly uninteresting), and even if he or she did, they wouldn't read the 500 page novel fast enough.
I would like to go into detail about this story but to do so would ruin a wonderful reading experience. I can say that Pessl is more than likely in the top percentile of Mensa; at the very least she is a literary genius.
Oh, the voice of Moderation has just stopped by:
"You're gushing."
That's true. I'll tone it down. Pessl's story is full of literary references and enough literary devices to keep an English University course occupied for a semester – even the chapter titles are names of famous literary works that cast light on the upcoming content (Othello for the chapter describing the romance between the protagonist's father and mother). Some of the reviews I've read thought there were too many allusions but I'd have to disagree. The protagonist, Blue van Meer, has had her life shaped by two things: her father and books. It would follow then that those two elements dominate her story.
If the book has a shortcoming it's a lack of likable characters. There is a reason for this (though it's not immediately obvious). Blue's father is always interesting, and Blue comes into her own eventually, but I found my interest waning at one point when I wished both she and her friends could be a little nicer. However, I would advise anyone feeling the same way to keep reading because, well, you'll just have to read it to find out.
Bottom line – start a book club and read this book. Avoid having to discuss the story in your head, to yourself, like me. Or sneaking a look at other book reviews from work. Or writing this at...
"You're saying too much."
That's true.