Special Topics in Calamity Physics

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Special Topics in Calamity Physics
First US edition
AuthorMarisha Pessl
CountryUnited States
GenreMurder mystery novel
PublisherViking Press
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
813/.6 22
LC ClassPS3616.E825 S67 2006

Special Topics in Calamity Physics (2006) is the debut novel by American writer Marisha Pessl. The book was first published in August 2006 by Viking Press, a division of Penguin Group. The book received many positive reviews and was named one of "The 10 Best Books of 2006" by The New York Times. Some negative reviews, including one in The Guardian, accused the text of being overly stylized and Pessl of having "a tin ear for prose".[1] In 2007, Variety reported that a movie version was in the works, to be produced by Scott Rudin[2] and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the writing-directing team behind Half Nelson, however, the project never progressed to filming.

The book is written in the style of the syllabus for an English Literature course and includes references as footnotes. The chapters are named after literary works like Othello, A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man, Wuthering Heights, Women in Love. While the book is replete with literary and cinematic references, some of these references, like "The Way of the Moth" and "One Night Stand" lead to non-existent sources.

It won the inaugural John Sargent, Sr. First Novel Prize in 2006.[3]

Plot introduction[edit]

Blue van Meer is a film-obsessed, erudite teenager. She is the daughter of itinerant and arrogant academic Gareth van Meer, who, after the death of his amateur lepidopteran-catching wife (and Blue's mother), never manages to stay at a college for more than a semester. During Blue's senior year, however, they settle in the sleepy town of Stockton, North Carolina. She starts to attend the St. Gallway School and befriends a group of popular, rich, and mysterious teenagers called the Bluebloods. The Bluebloods are also close friends with the film-studies teacher at St. Gallway, Hannah Schneider, a perplexing woman, who intrigues Blue. After Schneider dies, seemingly by suicide, Blue is left to determine why.


  1. ^ Dempsey, Peter (September 15, 2006). "Too cool for school". The Guardian. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
  2. ^ Fleming, Michael (January 10, 2007). "Miramax, Rudin option rights to novel". Variety. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
  3. ^ "Previous First Novel Prize Short Lists". The Center for Fiction. Retrieved November 27, 2011.

External links[edit]