Isn’t that just a ridiculously gorgeous cover?
I bought Special Topics in Calamity Physics when it was just released, which is fairly unusual for me. I usually wait for sales or buy the classics, but I just couldn’t resist the artwork when I saw it.
Talk about judging a book by its cover!!
It worked out completely brilliantly thought, and really this is a book that deserves cult status alongside the likes of The Secret History and The Time Traveler’s Wife.
I haven’t actually read it since my second year in college (when it went on a little road trip), so the two-and-a-half-year gap has left my memory a little fuzzy when it comes to the facts of the story. And so, to give you an idea of what it’s about, here’s an extract from the NY Times literary review:
Like Alan Bennett’s delectable and brilliant play “The History Boys,” now on Broadway, “Special Topics in Calamity Physics” tells the story of a wise newcomer who joins a circle of students who orbit a charismatic teacher with a tragic secret. The newcomer, a motherless waif named Blue van Meer, spent most of her life driving between college towns with her genius poli-sci professor father, Gareth.
To kill time on their drives, they discuss radical class warfare, riff on Homer and Steinbeck, recite movie dialogue and poems by Blake, Neruda and Shakespeare, and read Hollywood biographies — from a tell-all by Louis B. Mayer’s maid to blow-by-blows on Howard Hughes and Cary Grant.Gareth is fond of making oracular statements, which his daughter laps up as if they were Churchill’s: “Everyone is responsible for the page-turning tempo of his or her Life Story,” he tells her. And, he cautions, “never try to change the narrative structure of someone else’s story.”
Tightly swaddled in her daughter-dad duad, Blue does not know that her story is someone else’s. Only gradually does she learn that the frantic tempo of her life has been conducted by forces she does not suspect…
It really is a frightfully clever book (lol, I’ve always wanted to say that …I sound very Famous Five …lashing of ginger beer and all that!) and is packed with so many cultural references, literary samplings, movie quotes and general knowledge that you can feel your brain expand by just reading it.
And what I loved even more was the fact you could consume all this information and never feel bogged down because the writing has such a beautiful flow to it.
And did I mention I love the cover….?