This article will be choppy and filled with black spaces. They’re spoilers; swipe them to read. I don’t think any of them will ruin a first time reader of Special Topics in Calamity Physics, but since I really, really liked this book and hope more people read it, I want to protect folks.
I recently read, and loved, Marisha Pessl’s Special Topics in Calamity Physics. I found the book to be fun, literate, intriguing and filled with fascinating characters. Best of all, the book ends without tying everything up in a bow, leaving some mysteries technically unsolved and some characters out in the wind. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the narrator’s final solution to what has been going on in the book’s pages are never really confirmed fully by an outside party.
That will never do in a Hollywood movie. Scott Rudin has optioned Special Topics in Calamity Physics, and now he’s brought on a director to bring the world of teen genius Blue Van Meer, her strange and brilliant father, her strange and mysterious and murdered teacher Hannah and her strange and rowdy clique, the Bluebloods, to the screen. Ryan Fleck, who directed the unbelievably overloved Afterschool Special Half Nelson will be helming the adaptation while his partner Anna Boden will executive produce.
Special Topics in Calamity Physics is a great modern lit book that proves that modern lit doesn’t have to be impenetrable and also a mystery book that proves that mystery books don’t have to be bottom barrel bus station shit. It’s a book filled with wonderful language and colorful characters, and when reading it I knew it had been optioned, so I kept one eye on the potential script – honestly, the first seven-eighths of the book would make a great (if long) movie; it’s in the last chapter that the book reaches its best parts and becomes least Hollywood – heck, the death of Hannah, mentioned on the first pages, doesn’t even happen until towards the end. I guess that by hiring Fleck, Rudin is sending the signal that this film will be more ‘indie’ in the vein of Half Nelson, but since I thought Half Nelson’s final shot said, ‘See how these two misfits found each other and saved each other? Read more about it at your local library!’ I’m not wildly impressed.
Special Topics wouldn’t be next for Fleck; he is co-directing Sugar with Boden (who co-wrote Half Nelson), a movie about a Dominican baseball player who comes to the US to play in the minor leagues. I’m crossing my fingers that this turns out well, but in the meantime I’m really more interested in seeing what Pessl has as a follow-up.