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February 10, 2005



I have to say I kind of like her just because she was in a wrestling musical. They should've used that in the promo.


I managed to miss that the first time around. That is very cool!

David Thayer

Nabokovian...Hitchockian...can't we somehow put a sock in?

Kevin Wignall

Like Gwenda, I'm drawn to her simply by the thought of the Strumpette wrestling musical. I'm also not so sure this is such a wild-card for the publishers. Putting to one side the quality of the writing (and we don't know how good she is), this strikes me as the kind of book that occasionally breaks through in a big way. Think "Divine Secrets of the Y-Y S" or "Longitude". A gamble, sure, but not necessarily reckless. And I suspect her looks are marginally less important than the fact that she's a natural performer.


>>there are a number of reasons for this clam<<

Your typo is entirely accurate.

Peter S.

In the spirit of fairness, I should probably hold off on commenting about Marisha Pessl's work until actually reading the entire book. That being said, I found her reading last night at Skylight to be somewhat disappointing.

As an aspiring twentysomething novelist, I had every reason to be excited for a glimpse at the newly crowned wunderkind. Beyond that, as an avid consumer of literary fiction, I really hoped to be awed by her talents. (What's better, after all, than adding a new author to the rolodex?) Unfortunately, this wasn't the case.

To begin with, the sections from which Pessl read were freighted with similes to the point of distraction. Some, of course, were clever and well-placed, but the majority seemed superfluous and detracted from the overall descriptive flow. Additionally, and I know this is perhaps unfair--and I really do hate to make a tired structuralist critique--the notable similarities to Donna Tartt's "The Secret History," if only from a superficial armature standpoint, were a bit off-putting for me.

Lastly--and, again, I don't mean to pick nits--during the Q&A Pessl made several borderline embarrassing grammar mistakes; e.g., failing to distinguish between subject and object ("She returned the draft to my mother and I"), mis-using the subjunctive, etc. Admittedly, anyone can get nervous during a Q&A, and I'm not trying to suggest that Marisha Pessl doesn't know basic grammar. Nonetheless, it seems somewhat inconsistent for the author of a "pitch-perfect," sprawling pomo tome to be making simple grammar errors. One questions, for instance, whether a Moody, DFW, or JCO would fall prey to said pitfalls.

Again, to be fair, one can't really blame Pessl for a case of nerves (if that is, in fact, what it was) during her first reading tour. But she didn't really help her case any when she later admitted that, as an undergrad at Barnard, she simply "made up" footnotes for academic papers b/c she was "too lazy" to actually do the required research. That is, in the wake of such recent literary hoaxes as JT Leroy, James Frey, and Kavvya Viswanathan, a rising-star young author would be well-advised to avoid elucidating instances in which (s)he cut corners.

Again, I can't stress enough that I'm not putting Pessl in the fraud category; rather, I intend only to point ways in which she might lend herself more literary credibility, which is sure to be a concern going forward, given that she's already suffering something of a minor (if ineluctable) backlash against her "glamorous young author" status. In a nutshell, I guess I'd suggest that her handlers advise her to skip a few sessions of cardio and instead cozy up with Strunk & White.

That is, the best way, perhaps, to stifle the criticism that Pessl is primarily being championed b/c she's such an obviously saleable commodity (and no, she's not as hot in person) would be to have her give truly erudite interveiews and readings. Last night, at least, she failed to deliver.


With all the hype, I expected the book to be a disappointment. However, I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a read (Middlesex?) as much as I am enjoying this one.



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