Talk:Special Topics in Calamity Physics

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Mystery Novel?[edit]

I question the classification of this novel as a mystery novel, so I changed the reference in the first sentence from "mystery novel" to simply "novel." Like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, this novel has a plot that involves a protagonist attempting to piece together clues, but as with Mark Haddon's novel, the dominant characteristic of the novel is the narrator's unique voice and how she tells the story, not the solving of the crime. Both of these novels seem to me to be so far outside the typical characteristics of the mystery genre that it's misleading to call them simply "mystery novels." I'm curious if others who've read either or both of these novels agree. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Rickterp (talkcontribs) 06:13, 27 February 2007

I completely agree that "mystery novel" isn't the best appellation, and I've read both books you mention. My initial impression was that Special Topics in Calamity Physics seemed like a cross between The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Or maybe it's not so much of a cross, but it definitely reminds me of both of them. In spite of the familiarity of those parts, Pessl has put together a unique whole; this is a fascinating book (in story and structure), unlike anything else I've ever read. -- User:Rachel42
I changed it to "novel". Not only, as has been mentioned, is the focus more on the narrator's voice and telling of the story, but there is little apparent mystery for a good part of the book, just Blue's experiences at St. Gallway. 13:32, 17 June 2007 (UTC)
Actually, insisting that the book isn't a mystery belittles both the novel and the genre. While Blue's unique voice and the postmodern flair with which the book is written provide the most obvious charms, the skill with which the mystery's foundations are invisibly interwoven from page one is perhaps Pessl's most impressive accomplishment. Must a "mystery," as you seem intent on defining it, be so confined, so stripped of foreign genre conventions? Can't a book that effectively blends various elements justifiably be categorized in a number of different ways? I don't see why different genres have to be mutually exclusive. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)
No-one has said that genres must be mutually exclusive - simply that "Mystery" does not seem to be the dominant one in this case, and thus does not adequately classify the work. If they were reclassifying it as another genre then I'd agree with you, but they're simply promoting the use of a less specific (and thus, more all-encompassing) term, "novel", which denotes only a rough length, a fictional status, and that the work is written in prose. This seems to meet the goals you've set better than just picking one of several more specific genres that this book might have been classified as, only one of which was "mystery". This tactic should not be employed in every situation, of course, as more or less every work of fiction blends two or more genres to some extent, but in a case like this where it is difficult to ascertain exactly which of the relevant genres dominates the work, a more generic lable would seem appropriate. Clearly there are those who view it as more of a character piece than one focussed on the mystery.
This does lead me to question whether it might be more useful to classify it as a mystery, though - certainly most mainstream media outlets seem to have done so, and perhaps it is the best way to suggest to a potential reader what they should expect from the book. Personally I would have found the comparison to "The curious incident..." far more helpful than any genre label, so perhaps this approach should be neglected in favor of implementing some of this talk page into the article - perhaps a sufficient segment relating the book to other works and a brief summary that, together, would provide a fair suggestion of what to expect from the novel. Then again, that would seem to be hitting a grey area for an encyclopedia. Perhaps if general consensus (of all four people that seem to care about this book) could be reached it would be enough. I find myself wanting to shy away from calling it a "mystery" because of the presence of this information. You can see that while not labeling it as a "mystery" might be a disservice to the genre, doing so might, in some eyes, be seen as a disservice to the specific work, which should take precedence in an article about said work, which surely does not fit the standard mold for a mystery novel. (As much as a mold can exist for works not sold primarily on pharmacy magazine racks, anyways.) (talk) 04:14, 4 June 2008 (UTC)
At some point this becomes editorializing. Viking/Penguin markets it as a mystery. To whit (from Penguin emphasis added): “Dazzling,” (People) “Exuberant,” (Vogue) “marvelously entertaining,” (The Dallas Morning News) Marisha Pessl’s mesmerizing debut has critics raving and heralds the arrival of a vibrant new voice in American fiction. At the center of this “cracking good read”4 is clever, deadpan Blue van Meer, who has a head full of literary, philosophical, scientific, and cinematic knowledge. But she could use some friends. Upon entering the elite St. Gallway school, she finds some—a clique of eccentrics known as the Bluebloods. One drowning and one hanging later, Blue finds herself puzzling out a byzantine murder mystery. Nabokov meets Donna Tartt (then invites the rest of the Western Canon to the party) in this novel—with “visual aids” drawn by the author—that has won over readers of all ages. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Nickjost (talkcontribs) 16:53, 27 January 2009 (UTC)


Take out the spoiler in the plot section. That doesn't need to be in a plot summary! Thanks for ruining it. . . —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:56, 6 October 2008 (UTC)

This event is mentioned in the opening pages, it's hardly a spoiler, but I'll note that in the article. cojoco (talk) 22:43, 6 October 2008 (UTC)
Hey, can we put it all back in so as to be an actual encyclopedia page so people, like myself, can tell just what the hell it even is? As is, I know nothing about it. There's a person named Blue and a dead woman. This tells me absolutely nothing, and I came here for a detailed description of the plot. Damn your idiotic notion of spoilers! (talk) 15:14, 27 May 2009 (UTC)