Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Special Topics in Calamity Physics

Some time back I blogged about a purchase I made, influenced by the blurb on the cover. I got Marisha Pesshl’s Special Topics in Calamity Physics because of the blurb that said:

‘Made me stay up all night reading. I loved this book’ Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveller’s Wife

Now The Time Traveller’s Wife made me stay up all night, so I’m trusting this blurb. And it’s true! Special Topics in Calamity Physics is fantastic! (And I’ve just started it, only at pg 47 of 669, and already I’m frothing at the mouth!)

I’m not staying up reading, though. The prose is so beautiful I’m savoring it in tiny chunks. I love the style of writing – clever use of words and sayings, complete with annotations (the narrator’s dad is a professor, hence the influence) and Big Caps on Highlighted Phrases. Quirky!

There are big words and literary references throughout the book, but the words are arranged so well they sing a beautiful aria. Despite the big words the prose does not tax you nor insult your intellect (unlike Hari Kunzru’s prose. Read my rant here).

Here’s an excerpt of the prose I’m raving about.

         Dad picked up women the way certain wool pants can’t help but pick up lint. For years I had a nickname for them, though I feel a bit guilty using it now: June Bugs (see “Figeater Beetle”, Ordinary Insects, Vol. 24).
         There was Mona Letrovski, the actress from Chicago with wide-set eyes and dark hair on her arms who liked to shout “Gareth, you’re a fool”, with her back to him, Dad’s cue to run over to her, turn her around, and see the Look of Bitter Longing on her face. Only Dad never turned her around to see the Bitter Longing. Instead, he stared at her back as if it were an abstract painting. Then he went into the kitchen for a glass of bourbon. There was Connie Madison Parker, whose perfume hung in the air like a battered piñata. There was Zula Pierce of Okush, New Mexico, a black woman who was taller than he was, so whenever Dad kissed her she had to bend down as if peeking through a peephole to see who was ringing her bell. She started out calling me “Blue, honey”, which, like her relationship with Dad, slowly began to erode, becoming “Bluehoney” and then “Blueoney”, ultimately ending with “Baloney”. (“Baloney had it in for me from the very beginning!” she screamed.)
         Dad’s romances can last anywhere between a platypus egg incubation (19-21 days) and a squirrel pregnancy (24-45 days). I admit sometimes I hated them, especially the ones teeming with Ladies’ Tips, How-tos and Ways to Improve, the ones like Connie Madison Parker, who muscled her way into my bathroom and chastised me for hiding my merchandise (see “Molluscs”, Encyclopedia of Living Things, 4th ed.).

I like!


Ted Mahsun said...

You bought the UK cover???? But the US cover looks SOOO much better!

Funny you should say that the book doesn't insult your intelligence. One of the frequent criticisms is that the book seems to have this "air of arrogance" about it because of the constant reference to obscure books, real and made up.

Maybe they were just jealous that the author's pretty and got a huge advance for the book. *shrug shrug*

I, on the other hand, have not bought it yet. Not really on my to-buy list for now.

sharkgila said...

This cover paper is nice, matte finish with embossing. Plus it looks rosy and romantic looking.

I think it's the tone - it does not insist you know the refernces mentioned. It reads like a very funny textbook.

I'm just so bowled over by the Constant Use of big caps to highlight Important Things. So cute.

Hehe, ask me again if this is a good read once I'm done. I've hardly done 10% of it!

:-) said...

hummm ... can never bring myself to buy any book cover with a big rose in the front as a cover. I know ... i know ... it a personality problem here ... :)

Madcap Machinist said...

On hearing the title alone I wanted to get this book, and now I can't wait for the bookshop to open!

sharkgila said...

nel: the other version is a macho red and black one, you might prefer that.

madcap: funky title, eh. The book first caught my attention because of its title.

:-) said...

lol ... macho red and blank one ... ahhh ... tat's much better ... i guess fiction will always stays a fiction and it's really how every individual really wish to see in whatever they read and book covers does play a mojor in that until a person start to scrutinize the content ... hummm ... same goes with life as well, right? ... lol ... interesting ... :)

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