Sunday, September 5, 2010

C - Tom McCarthy

Quintessential Literary Fiction

C is not so much as story as a series of eclectic snapshots of the life of Serge Carrefax. These snapshots seem to include tidbits of information about things the author surely must be interested in. Things like, the making of silk, teaching the deaf to speak (and perform Greek tragedies), the mechanics of WWI, wireless communications (i.e. Marconi, not the iPhone), Egypt, etc. There's a lot of scientific explanation and detail, which for the most part was very interesting. If feels, to me, a bit like Serge was created so the author had a vehicle to express his varied interests. I'm not criticizing that, by the way, just expressing an opinion.

It's certainly well written. There are moments of sheer brilliance and perfection.

There's a part during the war where Serge's leader is telling him that a mission is being undertaken, by "tunnelers" to lay explosives underneath enemy trenches. They are concerned that the Germans are perhaps performing the same task even further down.

McCarthy writes:

"Serge becomes fascinated with these tunnelers, these moles. He pictures their noses twitching as they alternatively 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 no war there ...."

A strange book, you get hints of character's eccentricity, but I'm not sure you ever fully know any of the characters. Even Serge. Also, a number of characters are unceremoniously dumped, never to be heard from again. That's part of the "snapshot" thing, but it left me wondering, but what about...? There's some great humor in this book, but no emotion. Which I find so odd, because there are parts which would ordinarily be emotional. There were times I was enthralled and times not so much. Oddly (for me), I found the war parts the most engaging, and the Egyptian part the least so.

A really interesting read.

4 snapshots out of 5