“Bloggers Hate Pessl” MemeSpreads to NYT Arts Section


By Neal Comment

marisha-pessl.jpgAt least when Dinitia Smith’s profile of Marisha Pessl invokes the online commentary about the book deal for Special Topics in Calamity Physics, it doesn’t compound the fundamentally flawed reporting of the NYTBR on the topic. Yes, Smith actually attributes the “grumbling on the World Wide Web about yet another attractive young writer earning a big advance for a first novel” to its source, our own Sarah Weinman. She even notes Sarah’s affiliation with the Baltimore Sun, even though it somewhat undercuts the premise that the “grumbling” was strictly from discontented bloggers. Now, if they could just find other bloggers who had something to say about Pessl in 2005, there might really have been a trend…

Would it be churlish, then, to point out that the article then turns into exactly the sort of fluff piece that Sarah was really deriding? “In this case the skeptics appear to have been wrong,” Smith writes, implying that “the skeptics” (all two of them, if you count Jessa Crispin) suggested that Pessl was a lousy writer who only got a book deal because she was pretty. But that was never the point; the point was that a young, attractive writer (especially one with a suitably posh background) has certain advantages other writers don’t when it comes to catching the eye of journalists like Dinitia Smith. Case in point: remember how Smith fell for Kaavya Viswanathan the first time they met? Obviously, youth and beauty are the only similarities I’m claiming between Pessl and Viswanathan; I may not be as thoroughly charmed by the way Special Topics mashes up Donna Tartt and Dave Eggers as America’s leading book critics, but it is original, and it does display a significant talent.