Saturday, September 16, 2006

Pg. 69: "Special Topics in Calamity Physics"

Based on her reviews (and not her photo), I'd already decided to read Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics when I gave her novel the page 69 test.

Although I won't know for some time if the page presages the quality of the book, this does appear to be a case where McLuhan's advice would have a positive impact on my decision to follow through and read the book.

Here are the first few full paragraphs from page 69:

I stood for a moment in the aisle, unable to move until kids started pushing against my backpack and I was forced up the stairs. I had no idea how Charles knew my name. I did, however, know exactly why he’d rolled out the red carpet: he and his friends were hoping I’d join their Study Group. I’d toiled through a long history of Study Group invites extended by everyone from the Almond-Eyed Football Hero Who’d Have a Son by Senior Year to the Rita Hayworth Sunday Newspaper Coupon Model. I used to be thrilled when asked to join a Study Group, and when I arrived at the designated living room equipped with note cards, highlighters, red pens, and supplemental textbooks, I was euphoric as any Chorus Girl who’d been asked to understudy for the Lead. Even Dad was excited. As he drove me to Brad’s, or Jeb’s or Sheena’s, he’d start muttering about this being a wonderful opportunity, one that would allow me to spread my Dorothy Parker wings and single-handedly spearhead a contemporary Algonquin Round Table.

Once he dropped me off, though, it didn’t take long to realize I hadn’t been invited for my scathing wit. If Carla’s living room was the Vicious Circle, I was the waiter everyone ignored unless they wanted another scotch or there was something wrong with the food. Somehow, one of them had discovered I was a “geek” (a “cardigan” at Coventry Academy), and I’d be assigned to research one out of every two questions on the Study Sheet, sometimes the entire Study Sheet.

“Let her do that one, too. You don’t mind do you, Blues?”

The turning point came at Leroys….

OK, so our heroine is no Ferris Bueller. But I like that clever, perhaps even intelligent, self-awareness in a young narrator. I'll read this book.

Previous "page 69 tests":
John Sutherland, How to Read a Novel
Steven Miles, Oath Betrayed
Alan Brown, Audrey Hepburn's Neck
Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale

--Marshal Zeringue