Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Pessl Publicity Machine

Her name is Marisha Pessl. Her debut novel, "Special Topics in Calamity Physics," is out in hardcover, soon in paperback. It's not bad, I read it myself. But it's not great either. It's certainly not worth all the attention she's getting in The New York Times; or, The Pessl Publicity Machine. Allow me to review: there is this article about her good looks, about them not being used to sell the book (but by mentioning it, you only remind us....). This one about the Rembrandt oil-paint set her husband (a hedge fund manager) gave her. The Times published a fluffy op-ed by her on December 3, 2006. Surprisingly, although very little has been written about the substance of her 500 page book, the editors of the NYT Sunday Book Review chose it as one of the 10 best books of the year. Here is one description of the novel:

The antic ghost of Nabokov hovers over this buoyantly literate first novel, a murder mystery narrated by a teenager enamored of her own precocity but also in thrall to her father, an enigmatic itinerant professor, and to the charismatic female teacher whose death is announced on the first page. Each of the 36 chapters is titled for a classic (by authors ranging from Shakespeare to Carlo Emilio Gadda), and the plot snakes ingeniously toward a revelation capped by a clever ''final exam.'' All this is beguiling, but the most solid pleasures of this book originate in the freshness of Pessl's voice and in the purity of her storytelling gift.

Indeed, Pessl gives voice to a mystery, but the real mystery is why the NYT has bouyed her image to the extent that it has.


Ranty said...

Um, cuz she's cute?

That's all I can think of.

xtrachromosomeconservative said...

I haven't read the book, but it sounds like the cute part.