It’s a Calamity Alright…
Last spring, I put out a call to book bloggers for some reading suggestions for my Summer Reading 2009 project. I received many wonderful recommendations and am still slogging through the list. There is an entire page on my blog–Recommended Reading–devoted to the list.
Right after the suggestions starting coming in, I borrowed 20 of the books from my local library with the best intentions. I managed to make my way through a few titles that summer and return to the list whenever I have a reading lull.
Recently, I spied one of the recommended books in the audio books section of my sister’s library and snapped it up. Special Topics in Calamity Physics was recommended by Jill of Fizzy Thoughts, and at 16 discs, it’s a daunting listen.
Fast forward to today–I’m five discs in–and feeling like I’m on the outside of an inside joke.
The author, Marisha Pessl, is clearly fathoms, nay, leagues beyond me when it comes to esoteric literary references. The novel is generously peppered with extremely creative figurative language, and I’m adrift on a sea of similes and metaphors.
After a bit of research, I determined that this debut novel was lauded by the press and Pessl touted as the literary It Girl of 2006, Media Darling extraordinaire. Additionally, Pessl illustrated diagrams in the novel–which I’m missing by cheating with the audio version.
But can I tell you that listening to this novel is exhausting and leaves me feeling a bit daft–like when I read Jonathan Safran Foer novels (sorry, Meg!). I present, for your consideration, two short excerpts in which the protagonist, high school senior Blue, describes her father’s dating habits:
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 little guilty using it now: June Bugs (see “Figeater Beetle,” Ordinary Insects, Vol. 24).
Dad’s romances could 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 can’t help but thinking that Blue is just too precocious for words and Pessl’s writing a bit gimmicky.
Of course I can’t quit this book because to do so would be to admit defeat and announce my idiocy. Instead, I’ll stubbornly soldier on, hoping to reach a truce with this novel. I just hate the feeling that the rest of the planet is far more sophisticated and can appreciate literature in a way I can’t! I’ll work on those issues too.
For now, I’m heading back to the trenches.