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!
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.

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