Friday, May 11, 2007

I'd Like a Double Foam With Foam On Top

All right, people. You didn't ask for my thoughts on this book directly and that only encourages me.

I had initial thoughts on this book which thoughts bubbled up unbidden as I started to read this book, venturing into my first online bookclub gangbang experience. They were, in order: be gentle; I hope this book is good; and, good grief, this book is boring.

This latter thought persisted as I continued to read the subject novel. Label-wise it appears to be some kind of coming-of-age-qua-whodunit. I say it “appears” thus on account of the style in which the novel is written. The author obscures her tale under layers of frilly post-modern references and noodly linguistic riffs. This novel is very stylish. Too stylish. This is not to say the heavy reliance on literary devices and modernist throat-clearing nods to the devices being employed entirely overwhelms the substance of the novel because there is, underneath the sprouts, a decent sandwich. No, wait… underneath all the heavy woolen knitwear, their lives and breathes a nubile sweaty dwarf… NO! I guess Mr. Franzen is accurate with his “dark drink” reference. Underneath all the foam and so on. NOW I get it.

I digress. In spite of my reservations about the book I read it to the end. The author is extremely talented. She gave me enough killer snippets to keep reading the book although I kind of wish I hadn’t. I was compelled to find out what was going to happen to the characters and what had happened to the film teacher. That, to me, is a hallmark of effective writing. Of course, it didn’t help that when I got to the end I decided it was telegraphed.

And the quiz was annoying. I was ill-prepared for the essay question. The menacing anarchic hippies in my basement ate my homework.

In conclusion, "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" is:
a)a book;
d)almost worth the time I put into it.




Velma said...

Nubile sweaty dwarves?!? How did I miss that? I'm not finished yet, so maybe I haven't reached that part?

I am finding it slow going, but unlike "Pi" the slow going is more to do with the sunny weather outside my door and less to do with not being engaged in the book.

Andie D. said...

I too am finding it slow going. I'm starting to become more interested though. I want to find out what happens next more so than enjoy the ride.

Although I haven't finished it yet, I think you nailed it.

Mrs Big Dubya said...

I've still got 50-60 pages to go....

I agree with the majority of your assessment... (you were much better at articulating it than I). As I mentioned before -- all the literary references are distracting (and make me feel like I'm not well-read). I also hate the way Blue constantly references her pretentious pig of a father.... good God, shut up -- the guy's a dweeb.

My other complaint was that the book finally heats up at the very end.... it's really lopsided.... the plot twists should have started earlier -- she spends tons and tons of time setting the stage, but then speeds through the mystery party. If you are going to throw me off a cliff, at least let me enjoy the fall.

Overall, it was a good book.

Do we have a candidate for May/June?

Arwen said...

I like the literary references. Although I have no idea what some of them are, a few times I laughed out loud about the reference. I feel it is very hard to get thorugh as well (I also read a book in the middle of this book). I keep thinking about the different areas she writes about and where they actually are in Asheville. The other thing that is interesting is that she thinly veils Asheville as this other southeastern city...Thomas Wolfe did the same thing in Look Homeward angel and did a stellar job.

Julie Pippert said...

Ooohhh I just bought this book---special order even. My old book club buddies (who I left behind when I moved to the Republic) HIGHLY recommended it.

I haven't even cracked it. I admit to dulling my mind with Jill Davis right now.

If I think Fforde rocks, will I like this book?

Her Bad Mother said...

e) all of the above.

This book was someone's idea of a novel that might, someday, maybe-if-she's-lucky get optioned for filming. Problem is, Winona Ryder is sooo last millenium. It'll never get made.

Her Bad Mother said...

Julie - this book has nothing on Fforde. Not even comparable.