The fascination with boarding and prep schools noted in this blog not long ago continues with Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Janet Maslin of the New York Times writes in the Sunday Book Review, "Marisha Pessl’s “Special Topics in Calamity Physics” is the most flashily erudite first novel since Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Everything Is Illuminated.” With its pirouettes and cartwheels, its tireless annotations and digressions, it has a similar whiz-kid eagerness to wow the reader. In Ms. Pessl’s case that means sustaining the mock-academic brio of her title throughout a long, serpentine, seemingly lightweight schoolgirl story. It also means that the narrative, described as “Core Curriculum,” is sectioned into chapters named for works by writers familiar from the classroom. "
The website for the book is very weird and I gave up on it, but here's the link if you like interactive and, to my mind, ornery, websites. Googling the title turns up many reviews which discuss the beauty of the author and the size of her advance fee, but most reviewers seem to agree that the book does have merit and isn't just a case of what Justine Ettler in the Australian called "hot young author syndrome." Ettler goes on to say,
"Special Topics in Calamity Physics is a clever, sweet, lovable book. I really liked it. Maybe it's a bit precious in a Legally Blonde kind of way but I can live with that. I loved the PoMo way, even though it was a novel, it used conventions usually found in a university thesis. While it's true that Pessl is young, photogenic and precocious, she's also a very talented writer who has crafted a first-class debut. "