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Something About The Elements: Tom McCarthy’s C

September 10, 2010 \pm\30 12:35 pm

I read Tom McCarthy’s C, finally, after a few weeks of making my way through a queue to get to the galley, last weekend.

It was fantastic.

I love this man’s writing.

Did you read Remainder?

Most writing I read and love I can say “I could do something like this” or “This was a good idea, I see how they got to here.”

With Tom McCarthy, I’m wowed all the time. It’s not in a language-y way, like I usually am when I’m wowed.

It’s the general effect. The total affecting effect.

People whom love Kafka talk about Kafka this way.

I never got that into Kafka.

The title of the novel, C, could stand for many things.

Communication seems to be the main idea. Also the name “Carrefax,” the protagonist’s surname. And a lot of other words throughout. Name a book after a letter and that happens.

Carbon is another good one. C is the element Carbon, the basis of human life and all that.

One could argue “communication” binds us all together as much as carbon does.

Also copper. For wire.

There’s a scene (and that’s how the book is written, it seems, with a cinematic eye towards composition of fade-in and fade-out of scenes) in which the main character Serge (read pun with: “Surge”—of power, communication again, electricity, impulse, etc) sits in his bedroom listening and decoding Morse signals he picks up via a giant apparatus built for him by his father. He begins by picking up the town’s telegram line, moves farther to pick up neighboring towns. Then the harbor’s signals to boats, then the navy, then all the way to Paris and the Eiffel tower, by which time he is part of a vast stream of signals from all across the world. They hush as the Eiffel Tower announces the world news.

Is that not the internet? Is that not language? Is everything not encased in that?

Get this book.

It’s something to behold.

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2 Comments
  1. September 11, 2010 \pm\30 4:49 pm 4:49 pm

    I am thrilled to get this book. I just read Remainder and liked it but C sounds like an even more ambitious spread of settings/characters/events/etc.

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