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Special Topics in Calamity Physics

by Marisha Pessl

This intricately plotted novel begs for a second reading almost the minute you finish! The final third is the best (I read late into the night, utterly gripped and eager to know the resolution). Look beyond the (sometimes frustrating) constant exposition and annotation by Blue, the lead character, and focus instead on the wordy wit, imaginative prowess and energy that pours off the page.

Extract

Such things as anguish, woe, affliction, guilt, feelings of awfulness and utter wretchedness, the bread and butter of Days of Yore and Russians, sadly have very little staying power in these lickety-split Modern Times.

One has only to consult the 2002 edition of R. Stanbury's Illuminating Statistics and Cross-Century Comparisons, under 'Grieving,' to learn that the very idea of being Brokenhearted, Wretched, Desolate and Despairing is a thing of the past, soon to take on the amusing novelty of such archaic things as the Jalopy, the Jitterbug and Jams. The average American Widower in 1802 waited an average of 18.9 years before remarrying, while in 2001 he holds out for an average 8.24 months. (In the 'By State' snapshot, you will see in California he holds out for a horrifying 3.6 months.)

Parallels

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
 

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