Got a funny email from our erstwhile classmate, J.R., who reports that she's practically gone into debt at the bookstore this last month. High on her list of things to go into debt over next month is newbie Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl.
Pessl, just twenty-seven, has had her own cross to bear. Bookslut last March made mention that she is one of several new authors who have been outed as just 'pretty faces,' that create a buzz that has little or nothing to do with their work, but has everything to do with their huge advances and media attention. (Pessl incidentally also lists 'model,' 'dancer' and 'actress' on her CV .) The fact that nowadays sex sells, even in publishing had a lot of bloggers - justifiably - growling. It could be that Pessl's comparisons as a 'wunderkind' with Dave Eggers will do her good -- or not, but these days, it does make you wonder, just a little, exactly what is creating such hugely money-driven opportunities for certain writers. Is it really just their talent? The NY Times says yes, looking toward the fact that after two weeks on the market, the book is in its fifth printing.
Because of the buzz? Because of Pessl's talent in writing? Is this really a YA novel, or ...what? The description in various industry rags of Special Topics being "Nabokovian" and "Hitchcokian" make me "Chundernauseam," but that just may be my snark speakin'. Click on the link and read the excerpt... I'd be very interested in your opinion.
Via Jen Robinson's Book Page, I found a nifty article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about how more and more adults are looking to YA books as good reading. Of course, the unfortunate tagline is that "Harry Potter changed the rules," but we have to give ol' Harry his props -- the novel did much for allowing adults to see that what is marketed toward their children is solidly written, entertaining, satisfying and thought-provoking. I think the level of sophistication found in YA literature is helping bridge age-gaps in other ways as well. After reading something challenging, who can say that the average 11-18 year old is limited, bored, boring or listless ever again? And after reading a great YA novel, don't you have the urge to thrust it into the hands of the nearest young reader and say, "Oh, you've got to read this!"
Ah, the power of great literature.