Marisha Pessl

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Marisha Pessl
Born (1977-10-26) October 26, 1977 (age 45)
Alma materBarnard College
GenreLiterary fiction

Marisha Pessl (born October 26, 1977)[1] is an American writer known for her novels Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Night Film, and Neverworld Wake.

Early life[edit]

Pessl was born in Clarkston, Michigan, to Klaus, an Austrian engineer for General Motors, and Anne, an American homemaker. Pessl's parents divorced when she was three, and she moved to Asheville, North Carolina with her mother and sister. Pessl had an intellectually stimulating upbringing, recalling that her mother read "a fair chunk of the Western canon out loud" to her and her sister before bed, and entered her in lessons for riding, painting, jazz, and French.[1] She was also a fan of The Chronicles of Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time, and the Nancy Drew books.[2]

Pessl started high school at the Asheville School, a private, co-educational boarding school, but graduated from Asheville High School in 1995. She attended Northwestern University for two years before transferring to Barnard College.[3]


After graduating, she worked as a financial consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, while writing in her free time. After two failed attempts at novels,[4][5] Pessl began writing a third novel in 2001 about the relationship between a daughter and her controlling, charismatic father.[1] Pessl completed the novel, titled Special Topics in Calamity Physics, in 2004 and it was published in 2006 by Viking Penguin to "almost universally positive" reviews, translated into thirty languages, and eventually becoming a New York Times Best Seller.[1] Kirkus Reviews called it "sharp, snappy fun for the literary-minded." Peter Dempsey writing for the Guardian, despite giving it a mixed review overall, called it "a page-turning murder mystery with a gratifyingly complex plot, a dizzying Usual Suspects-style narrative with nods to detective novelists conventional (Agatha Christie) and unconventional (Carlo Emilio Gadda). On a second reading, what appeared to be a high-school tale spatchcocked on to the story of an amateur detective is seen to be a ground-laying exercise of immense skill."[6]

Pessl's second novel, Night Film, a psychological literary thriller about a New York investigative journalist looking into the apparent suicide of the daughter of a renowned filmmaker ("a fictional mash-up of Stanley Kubrick, Roman Polanski and David Lynch"),[7] was published by Random House on August 20, 2013. It was ranked sixth on The New York Times Bestseller’s list following its release.[8]

Pessl's third novel, Neverworld Wake, was released on June 5, 2018. It is described as a "psychological suspense novel with a sci-fi twist."[9] It is set in Watch Hill, Rhode Island.[2] Pessl said in an interview, "I was working on my next adult novel, and I had this little germ of an idea about these five teenagers who used to be friends coming together in a sort of Agatha Christie-style, claustrophobic mansion type setting where they’re stuck. And at the time, I was very much interested in the brain and the consciousness and what’s real and what isn’t, so I definitely started going down this rabbit hole of trapping them and having them stuck in a way that went beyond anything Agatha Christie ever came up with."[2]

Writing style[edit]

Writing for Vulture, Nitsuh Abebe said, "Any reader of Pessl’s novels will notice she’s a lover of puzzles and secrets, hidden connections and buried clues."[10]

Other projects[edit]

Pessl was also a contributing musician to The Pierces' third studio album, Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge, released in 2007. She is credited in the liner notes as having played the French horn on track 9 titled "The Power Of..."[11]

Personal life[edit]

Pessl married Nic Caiano, a hedge fund manager, in 2003; they divorced in 2009.[12] She married neurosurgeon Dr. David Gordon on February 28, 2015.[13] They have three children – Winter Guinevere Gordon, born July 10, 2015,[14] Avalon Blue Gordon, born January 24, 2017,[15] and Raine Juliet Gordon, born October 8, 2019.



  • Special Topics in Calamity Physics Penguin, 2006, ISBN 9781101218808
    • Die alltägliche Physik des Unglücks: Roman, translated by Adelheid Zöfel, Fischer E-Books, 2013, ISBN 9783104029887
    • Fördjupade studier i katastroffysik, translated by Eva Johansson, Natur & Kultur, 2007, ISBN 9789127114364
    • La Physique des catastrophes, translated by Laetitia Devaux, Gallimard, 2007, 614 p., ISBN 9782070776207
    • Calamiteitenleer voor gevorderden, translated by Otto Biersma and Paul Bruijn, Ambo|Anthos uitgevers, Amsterdam, 2006, ISBN 9789041414397
  • Night Film: A Novel Random House, 2013, ISBN 9780307368225
  • Neverworld Wake Delacorte Press, 2018, ISBN 9780399553929


  1. ^ a b c d Smith, Dinitia (August 21, 2006). "With Marisha Pessl, You Can't Judge a Book by the Photo on the Cover". The New York Times. Retrieved June 15, 2007.
  2. ^ a b c Rathe, Adam (June 8, 2018). "Marisha Pessl's Neverworld Wake Is the Preppy Thriller Everyone Will Be Reading This Summer". Town & Country. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  3. ^ Gould, Emily (September 2006). "An interview with Marisha Pessl". Bookslut. Retrieved June 15, 2007.
  4. ^ Kennedy, Mark (November 5, 2006). "Don't hate Pessl because she's..." Deseret Morning News. Retrieved June 15, 2007.
  5. ^ "Lit Wunderkind Marisha Pessl Plays Detective With Night Film". Vulture. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
  6. ^ Dempsey, Peter (September 15, 2006). "Review: Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
  7. ^ Duchateau, Christian. "'Night Film' author Marisha Pessl answers 5 questions". CNN. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  8. ^ "Best Sellers: Hardcover Fiction". The New York Times. Retrieved November 17, 2014.
  9. ^ "Marisha Pessl on Twitter". Twitter. June 19, 2017.
  10. ^ "Lit Wunderkind Marisha Pessl Plays Detective With Night Film". Vulture. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
  11. ^ Kristine Dabbay and Rita Faire (August 2013). "Footnotes". Retrieved May 26, 2019.
  12. ^ Johnson, Richard (August 18, 2009). "Most Eligible". New York Post. Retrieved June 27, 2012.
  13. ^ "@marishapessl". Instagram. March 1, 2015.
  14. ^ "@marishapessl". Instagram. July 12, 2015.
  15. ^ "@marishapessl". Instagram. January 26, 2017.

External links[edit]