Thursday, June 02, 2011


It's taken me a while to make a big dent in Tom McCarthy's Booker-nominated, C, so I thought I'd post while in progress on this one.

From the outset, I wasn't too sure about this novel. It's a huge tangle of weird happenings in the life of one very odd and detached duck, Serge Carrefax. His father tinkers with early wireless technology while running a school for the deaf. His sister Sophie is an obsessive, cold, somewhat incestuous mess of a science nerd. He goes to a spa in Germany to have his bowels set right. He flies a plane in WWI where he becomes a drug addict. And that's only up to page 173 of 310.

The story is weird, dark, droning in spots. Despite those not necessarily positive descriptors, I am absolutely captivated by this book. It's clever, full of wordplay and historical references, and there's a lot of twistiness!

If I were to rationalize the title at this point -- beyond Carrefax, caul, and some other key words that hit the reader over the head -- I would say this book is about connections. The odd, seemingly loose ends that all come together to form a life. While Serge himself is not terribly likable or extraordinary, the coincidences and trail of plot twists in his life are pretty amazing, if often tragic.

If you want to be titillated, check out the passage below. Serge is flying over the landscape of WWI and knows that tunnelers have been planting bombs underneath the Germans' trenches. This is what he imagines as he sails over the front:
Serge becomes fascinated with these tunnellers, these moles. He pictures their noses twitching as they alternately dig and strap on stethoscopes that, pressing to the ground, they listen through for sounds of netherer moles undermining their undermining. If they did hear them doing this, he tells himself, then they could dig an even lower tunnel, undermine the under-undermining: on and on forever, or at least for as long as the volume and mass of the globe allowed it--until the earth gave over to a molten core, or, bypassing this, they emerged in Australia to find there was not war there and, unable to return in time for action, sat around aimlessly blinking in the daylight...
That's all for now, but I'll be back with my final thoughts when I'm done with this one. I suspect I'll spend a few late nights wrapping it up!!! It's worth slowing down and taking in.


  1. I really like your thoughts on the book so far. I'm afraid I didn't have much patience for the symbolism etc. But there were definitely many fascinating parts. I look forward to hearing your final thoughts!

  2. Unlike you, I just couldn't stand it. Despite the weirdness, which I usually like. It just went on and on about things I didn't care about and didn't understand (the children's play being a great example).

  3. Melody, thanks! The symbolism part I'm down with, but I admit that I skim some of the tedious parts. This is one I think I'd re-read to catch what I missed the first time.

    Jill! There are a lot of parts like that (droning), though right now I'm being good-hearted and optimistic that he meant that to happen. It's almost like the droning or whir of technology (white noise'ish). I trust he meant to do that. Ha!

  4. I love that you described the book as a "tangle" as that is EXACTLY what the cover promises!

  5. OK, I know I'm a bit odd but I like the idea of this book but not sure I really want to read it. But I want to hold onto the idea that I *could* get it. (which means I will not read it. same thing for Ulysses)

  6. This book sounds really interesting. I don't know much about it but your description makes me want to check it out. I don't like too much weirdness in books unless really well done (like Slaughterhouse Five, say). Can't be strange just for the sake of being strange!

  7. Right on, Aarti! I actually think this UK cover is far more representative of the goodies between the covers than the American version!

    LOL, Care! I feel the same way about Ulysses. It'll be a nice shelf decoration for years to come. :D

    Bookstop, there seems to be enough rhyme and reason to make the weirdness work. Serge is just odd.


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