July 8th, 2006


Why Author Photos are Usless (or, A Photo of Marisha Pessl)

From the Australian, "Pessl's debut is clearly an example of hot young author syndrome but we should not hold the fact that she has it all -- looks, smarts, talent, commitment, youth and now serious dosh and success -- against her. It is not her fault that attractive writers are easier to market and therefore attract bigger book advances. (Note: anyone who thinks all authors look like Pessl hasn't attended enough writers festivals; the Zadie Smith factor is the exception, not the rule.) Hot young author syndrome is a symptom of market-led publishing. Happily, in this case it has also resulted in the publication of a book that happens to be a bloody good read."

Laura Tisdel, Marisha Pessl's publicist, "I know that there was quite a bidding war for Marisha's book—but that made sense to me because (on the marketing side) she is young and gorgeous, and the book is a detailed thriller with an engaging narrator and an unexpectedly sinister twist.”

Publisher's Weekly Starred Review, "Pessl's stunning debut is an elaborate construction modeled after the syllabus of a college literature course—36 chapters are named after everything from Othello to Paradise Lost to The Big Sleep—that culminates with a final exam. It comes as no surprise, then, that teen narrator Blue Van Meer, the daughter of an itinerant academic, has an impressive vocabulary and a knack for esoteric citation that makes Salinger's Seymour Glass look like a dunce. Following the mysterious death of her butterfly-obsessed mother, Blue and her father, Gareth, embark, in another nod to Nabokov, on a tour of picturesque college towns, never staying anyplace longer than a semester. This doesn't bode well for Blue's social life, but when the Van Meers settle in Stockton, N.C., for the entirety of Blue's senior year, she befriends—sort of—a group of eccentric geniuses (referred to by their classmates as the Bluebloods) and their ringleader, film studies teacher Hannah Schneider. As Blue becomes enmeshed with Hannah and the Bluebloods, the novel becomes a murder mystery so intricately plotted that, after absorbing the late-chapter revelations, readers will be tempted to start again at the beginning in order to watch the tiny clues fall into place. Like its intriguing main characters, this novel is many things at once—it's a campy, knowing take on the themes that made The Secret History and Prep such massive bestsellers, a wry sendup of most of the Western canon and, most importantly, a sincere and uniquely twisted look at love, coming of age and identity."

Ben Peek, "I don't trust good looking authors. Fuck that shit, I don't know how you can market authors on the back of their author photo. I might've bought this book, cause, outside the so-called brilliant teenage narrator, it kind of does sound interesting, form wise. But Pessl's looks ought to have nothing to do with this book. It's not like having a good looking author makes for a better book. What's worse, however, is that Pessl is only good looking in a very mainstream way, to take from this photo and, if such a person with these kind of looks is easy to market, then such a person with these kinds of looks is easy to dismiss as boring. So I shall do so."