Special Topics in Remedial Writing: Pessl's Problematic Prose

What comes next for the newly name-brand novelist? Madly praised Marisha Pessl manages to place a meditative piece in the middlebrow paradise of the New York Times op-eds–a doughty defense, against the nattering of nutritionists, of the well-known weight-gain college kids call the Freshman Fifteen. (Though her own “15 were more along the lines of seven,” she confesses–mustn’t undermine the hot-chick-author rep!)

Alas, apparently aggressive alliteration passes for polished prose in pundit precincts. Pessl can line up the letters–but can she make them meaningful?

Phrase: Pessl describes her mother praising photographs of “my beaming face, pink and puffy as a macaroon.”
Does alliteration help? Macaroons generally aren’t pink; “puffy” has a more negative connotation for describing faces than one might want in the context.

Phrase: Pessl discusses students having to deal with “midnight cravings for pizza, pasta, Twinkies and Tab.”
Does alliteration help? Tab, a diet soda, has only one calorie.

Phrase: Pessl suggests one drawback to nutritional reform is that “studying Kirkegaard or Conrad after a dinner of seitan and soy chips would render even robust stomachs seasick.”
Does alliteration help? The nutritionists Pessl is discussing are unlikely to recommend a combination of seitan and soy chips as a complete meal.

Phrase: Describing the opportunities for experimentation in college, Pessl writes, “meet a French girl at a frat party; soon you’re specializing in Sartre.”
Does alliteration help? Fraternity parties tend not to exert social pressure toward Continental intellectualism.

Phrase: Pessl descibes “study sessions” of “beer, Byron and buffalo wings.”
Does alliteration help? Maybe.

Special Topics in Remedial Writing: Pessl's Problematic Prose