Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
What is that intangible thing an author provides that makes you start a book you don’t expect to like, and then you come up for air and you realize that it’s way past your bedtime? I bought this book because it was the literary gem of the season by precocious wunderkind Pessl, recently graduated from college. I rolled my eyes when I found our protagonist had the pretentious name of Blue van Meer. She has lived and been schooled in dozens of cities by her restless father, and now in her senior year, she’s dumped in a high-end prep school and seduced into a snotty clique. Could I really like this? When I looked up, I’d read without moving for nearly 3 hours.
As others have said before me, this book fits into no neat genre: part coming-of-age; part mystery, but with details that feel more like an espionage tale; erudite and written with the flare of an old master of the written page, but never for the sake of showing off—only ever to entreat you deeper into this amazing story. It doesn’t keep to its traces but breaks out all over the place. Like an origami flower, it folds out wider and wider, and we are no longer in high-school prep/clique land but in a much vaster field. Also there is real beauty, wonder, pain, heartbreak—and suspense! Seriously, this book has it all.
Pessel is one of the best writers of her generation. STinCP came out in 2007 and she has just released her second novel Night Film in 2013. From the reviews, it seems she has done it again (currently on my short ‘to read’ list).
Grade: 5+ stars
The Broods are a band and fairly new. I caught a bit of the video for their release ‘Mother & Father’ and the song immediately caught me with its hook. It’s floaty and dreamy but with a beat. A combination I often like.
A word about music videos*: I only provide YouTube links to songs because it’s an easy, free and legal way to share the song. I’m not promoting the music video per se because 9 times out of 10, I’ve not really watched it. On YT, I’ll find a playlist I want to listen to, turn it on and do other stuff on the computer and have no idea what’s on the video. However for this blog, I’ll usually try to link to vids that have a neutral visual component+ (like the 2nd vid below). If I do link to the actual ‘music video’ for the song, I’ll have watched it and decided it was fine, that the visuals are not too ‘weird’. That said my ‘weird’ meter may not be yours, so… just saying.
As always, you can check out their music via previews on iTunes, AmazonMusic or plenty of other streaming services. I’m a believer in supporting artists either via direct buys or via streaming services.
While it’s beginnings sound somber—a family of adults attend the funeral of the their father and find that, even though the family was not religious, his dying wish was that the family come together and sit Shiva (mourning) for the requisite week. Thus begins this funny, and at times, touching novel as told by a wonderfully muddled 40-something guy trying to parse it all. It breezes along and you’ll be glad you went on the ride. (And yes, soon the movie is coming out.) 4 stars
This song was a random find on YouTube. I’d started to listen to another artist’s vid, kind of liked it. As often is the case, it belonged to a longer playlist. I was busy, so I let the playlist roll on and these GEMS came on. I know nothing about this artist, but there’s not a lot out there, just a few tracks, though he’s also played on other artists’ tracks.
Song – Happens by Sampha
This one is my favorite. The piano is somewhere between jazz, R&B, and sophisticated pop.
Song – Too Much by Sampha
Super mellow piano and aching vocals. Can’t classify it—which I love.
Enjoy. There are links on the YT vid if you care to buy. Support the artist if you like the music. Also available on Spotify and other streaming services. (Just to be clear: this is not an official promo of any kind. I just found this, liked it and want to share.)