Who Is Stanislas Cordova?

Four years ago, Marisha Pessl—author of the celebrated 2006 novel Special Topics in Calamity Physics—visited Lenoir-Rhyne University, in her native North Carolina, and gave a lecture, during which she did something really, really strange that nobody seemed to notice. You can watch a video of it online. Pessl, then 31 years old and world-beatingly poised and professional, stands at a lectern, in a tan jacket and high ruffled collar, and gives a brief talk on a classic topic—the where-do-you-get-your-ideas question that always greets writers of fiction. The strange bit comes at the end, before the obligatory Q&A, as she wraps up with the obligatory quote. “When asked in a 1986 Life interview to explain his films’ wide popularity,” she deadpans, “the American film director Stanislas Cordova replied, ‘I don’t know. I just let the audience quietly spy on themselves.’ ”

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