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Pickle Me This

December 22, 2006

Special Topics etc.

I will be brief about Special Topics in Calamity Physics as so many reviews have said so much already (I’d link to more reviews, but my internet is dial-upily slow today, who knows why). As always, I would dismiss the opinion of all those who couldn’t get through it because this book’s ending was my favourite thing about it. I also would not accuse the novel of pretentiousness, but rather it is meant to be a critique of pretentiousness– not an entirely successful one, however. Similarly, the novels gestures toward an extreme bookishness, which a reader can’t quite buy as many of the books discussed within this one aren’t even actual books. Comparisons to Donna Tartt are made easily, but Pessl’s characters are not as interesting (in fact, Blue van Meer’s teenage peers are incredibly boring). Comparing anyone to Nabokov is a bit unfair. In typical American styly, the book is big as a brick and I’m not sure it has to be (though I’m hardly one to talk– my attempt at brevity is already failing). The inevitable however. The first third of this book is hardly a slog, but it’s annoying in parts. I think that fake bookishness might be worse than pretentious bookishness. The second third of the book is better, but far too focussed on the secret life of teenagers, which of course is boring. The third part of the book, however, is golden. It’s what I imagine that DaVinci book might be like for people who liked it. Murder mystery/thriller/race to the end/gutting twist etc. Marisha Pessl is trying to do far too much with her debut novel, but the upside of that is that I think most people could find something to like in this book.

Now rereading Jane Eyre, which I read last eleven years ago when I was in grade eleven English. “I hate English!” is written on the title page in my handwriting, but I do remember liking this book and I’m loving it now. Continuing with uTOpia, which actually has many more good essays than bad ones, and I’m learning a lot. I particularly like the way essays unconsciously counter and disagree with one another, which fits the complexity of the issues this book is addressing. Oh, and Curtis bought me a subscription to Vanity Fair, which I’ve been dreaming of for my whole life. He and Erin came over for dinner last night, and my risotto debut was a giant success. We all drank too much wine, and had inordinate amounts of good conversation.

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