Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Final Word: C by Tom McCarthy


I didn't realize until the end that the black parts are Morse Code! Duh!
Done!!!
I'm instituting a new rating system here at Estella's Revenge that fits nicely with my new vision of skewering literary fiction. It's very simple, ya see...I will rate the books I read "Snuggle" on the positive side or "Skewer" on the negative. I'll get to my rating of C shortly.

It feels like it took for-FRACKIN'-ever to finish C. On the one hand, there's been a good bit of work twirliness going on, but on the other hand, the last 1/4th of the book was an asswhip (specialized literary term). I mentioned all of the protagonist's weird lifestyle "things" last time: incestuous, suicidal sister; wonky bowels; WWI bomb dropping. Since my last check-in, Serge Carrefax spent some time in a Nazi work camp, cavorted with actresses and spiritualists, and had a tryst in an Egyptian tomb. The real asswhippery stems from the fact that Serge gets hooked on heroin during his WWI flying days and the novel gets progressively more jumbled and harder to follow as he becomes more inebriated.

Final thoughts on the book: pretty brilliant in a lot of ways. There are endless interpretations of the title. There are a lot of "c" words and themes one could fashion around them. I stick to my previous interpretation, that for me C is largely about connections. Given all the screwed up happenings in Serge's life, he's looking for connections between his interest in wireless technology and the larger world. He's looking for connections to other humans after his sister kills herself. It can be very difficult to like Serge since he's a pretty aloof, disconnected, dysfunctional guy, but I thought it was fitting. This story would've been a completely different and largely uninteresting novel if Serge weren't a bit of a social underachiever. He wouldn't have done half of the stupid, weird things if he weren't a little damaged.

I've read several reviews of this novel, including Jennifer Egan's assessment in the New York Times. The term "Postmodern" gets tossed around a lot in reference to this novel, and I have a problem with Postmodernism insofar as the definition is RIDICULOUSLY BROAD. However, I think Postmodern novels can turn a lot of readers off. Different strokes for different folks, but I conclude that this novel is Postmodern in that it requires the reader to make a lot of connections and make sense of a LOT of information flying at them -- just like Serge. There's an element of involvement required of the reader that I really enjoy and makes me very happy to have read this book.

So, that rating thing...

Looking forward to more from McCarthy!
While I often wanted to skewer Serge Carrefax himself, I ultimately really enjoyed the ride, which means C deserves a snuggle from me. It's a book I would re-read and most certainly get a whole slew of new things out of it on a second romp. Sounds snuggle-worthy to me.

Pub. Date: September 2010 
Publisher: Knopf
Format: Hardcover , 310pp
ISBN-13: 978-0307593337
Source: Ye olde library.

18 comments:

  1. I like your new rating system - but not sure I want to snuggle with C. Too creepy and weird and a bit pervy to be truly snuggable!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey, Lyndsey! Maybe I should reword. I'd like to snuggle with Tom McCarthy for writing this! Serge is definitely a pervy little booger. Quite the odd duck.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Cool rating system :-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I like the rating system - so far I haven't been able to snuggle up to C though, but I'm going to try again. It's been lying around for a bit

    ReplyDelete
  5. Willa, thank you! I've often struggled with rating systems. Some seem so hard to use, others too complicated. I either like a book, or I don't. Snuggle or skewer!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hey, Corri! I hope you have better luck with it. I just really enjoyed the weird stuff that happen to Serge! Atmospheric, creepy in spots, troubling, funny. And I was surprised to have liked it this much.

    ReplyDelete
  7. i can't quite get onboard with a lot of this postmodern lit because much of it feels too gimmicky to me. jonathan safran foer is one of the biggest offenders in my little book. lol. as for snuggling, i might be convinced to do a bit of that with mr. mccarthy myself!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Nat, they can be quite gimicky. Some of them just piss me off. Safran Foer is my literary ARCHNEMESIS! He reminds me of a young, asshole Updike. SOOO not a good place to be on my literary hit list.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I agree postmodern can definitely be a turn-off and I suppose it's probably a bit of a turn off for me. With this one though the cover freaks me out more than the the postmodern label.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I was okay with Serge, it was McCarthy I wanted to skewer (so not a fan of the postmodernist crap). Also, Serge's parental units...they could've used some skewering, too.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have a feeling this is one of those books that would leave me wondering what the heck I'd just read. I'm probably not smart enough for it.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I agree C was worth the struggle. I read it last summer, and it was a slow 300 pages time-wise, but my mind was fully engaged the entire time. I was impressed; it wasn't an easy read, but I'm glad I challenged myself. I didn't love it love it, but I liked it a lot, and I sure as hell was impressed by his brilliance.

    ReplyDelete
  13. LOL, Ash! My stepkiddos quickly alerted me that the cover is super creepy. I can understand that. However, I still find it ridiculously appealing -- but I like jacking with traditional images.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Jill, quite a few people in this novel needed a good bit of skewering. The ones who weren't already "skewered" by Serge, that is. Ba-dum-CHING! Sorry, I had to say it. His parents really were asses. And I found myself hoping that Sophie would show back up at the seances. Weird, eh? I suppose she sort of did toward the end with all the Egyptian stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Kathy, I just don't think you give yourself enough credit!!!! Plus, I make up half the crap I post anyway. The #1 lesson English majors learn in grad school is that if you can make a case for your particular argument based on what's in the text, you're fine. I could make the case that Serge were abducted by aliens if I could rationalize it in the book somewhere. This is also an enjoyable aspect of reading to teach to an Intro to Lit class. :D

    ReplyDelete
  16. Carrie, certainly not an easy read. I was interested in the ebb and flow of it. Many sections were pure enjoyment and each section of the book was very distinct in setting and plot. The last one was the only one I found really painful. And I thought the end was just SOGREAT.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I like the new rating system...it is very straight to the point. This sounds like an interesting book...I like creepy and weird at times. Interesting review as well :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. This sounds like a book that for want of a better expression would "blow my mind".

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for taking the time to comment! I respond to comments individually by e-mail and/or here on the site. I value community above all else in blogging, and talking with you all is the highlight of my blogging day!