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Our Tragic Universe

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3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  3,097 ratings  ·  501 reviews
Can a story save your life?

Meg Carpenter is broke. Her novel is years overdue. Her cell phone is out of minutes. And her moody boyfriend's only contribution to the household is his sour attitude. So she jumps at the chance to review a pseudoscientific book that promises life everlasting.

But who wants to live forever?

Consulting cosmology and physics, tarot cards, koans (and
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ebook, 384 pages
Published September 1st 2010 by Mariner Books (first published 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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trishtrash
In homage to Scarlett Thomas’ narrative experiment, I am sorely tempted to review the black paperback edges (gimmicky, annoying) rather than the story (gimmicky, annoying) on the principle that the review would be to the book as the plot is to the author – that is to say, only peripherally relevant, something that gets in the way of all the clever thoughts she’s had while writing.

Loosely speaking, there’s a relationship plot that might have been a bit too chick-lit for my taste, anyway, what wi
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Blair
This is without a doubt one of the best books I've read all year, but it's quite a difficult one to review. It's hard to explain what the story is actually about; in many ways, it isn't really about anything, but without giving too much away, that's sort of the point.

Scarlett Thomas's last novel, The End of Mr. Y, was very good, but disappointed me because - after a fantastic start - the ending strayed too far into fantasy and became slightly ridiculous. Because of the similar cover, and the pro
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Jill
Sigh. Scarlett Thomas -- you are endlessly frustrating.

Thomas is clearly intelligent; the ideas and concepts she weaves into her novels are bright, interesting, and fairly potent. The thing is...she knows she's intelligent. And it seems pretty important to her for you, the reader, to know it, too. It's not even that she's pretentious, or that her stories are -- well, not always, anyway -- but that she is so focused on her bright ideas that the stories themselves become...incidental. The End of M
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Megan
Once I was so far along in the book I decided to read the reviews because I wasn't getting anything out of it. Frankly, I didn't understand why it was reviewed so highly so I forced myself through it thinking it would turn around. On page 170 Meg lists the problems with her book. "The items on it were: It is boring; it has no focus; it is self-indulgent; I hate the central character; it's too depressing; no wants anything; no one does anything; there are no questions to be resolved; there is too ...more
Jason (RawBlurb)
Review: Our Tragic Universe, Scarlett Thomas

Forewarning, this is a positive review though I can see where it might not appear that way. It was just a very hard book to write about!

Our Tragic Universe (originally to be titled ‘Death of the Author’) is a nonstandard plot. Part time writer Meg is living in a small town England. She is living unhappily with her long term boyfriend and her dog, barely scraping by. Meg is continually trying to write her “Real Novel”, editing and paring down her words,
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Antonomasia
Dec 29, 2014 Antonomasia rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Antonomasia by: GR readers' advisory forum; Matthew Marcus
With semi-comic characters who talk about Nietzsche whilst knitting, and try to debunk pseudoscience and supernatural experiences during dog-walks, Our Tragic Universe is a charmingly shambolic (to some, shambolically pretentious) blend of 1970's British kids' fantasy novel, eccentric chicklit with an M.A., metafiction and amusingly presented mundane detail. It has curious contrasts: ostensibly fairly high, polymathic intellectual content and some startlingly fresh metaphors alongside instances ...more
Judy
Aug 15, 2012 Judy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers
Oh my god, I loved this book! I have a first edition hardcover with that cool black/gray, white, and gold cover and the black-edged pages. I bought it at City Lights when I was on my way home from hiking in the Redwoods and then left it sitting on my shelves for two years. After slogging through In the Garden of Beasts, I just wanted to read something I wanted to read, so I grabbed Our Tragic Universe, flopped onto my bed and practically stayed there until I had read to the end.

The whole story i
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Audra (Unabridged Chick)
This is a challenging book to review: the entire time I was reading it, I was convinced I hated it; only I'd stop reading it and find myself chewing over the themes of the story or the narrator or the promise of where the novel was going. In the end, I have to say this is a very good and well-written novel that is maddening and thought-provoking and a little bit pretty.

The story is fairly simple: our narrator, Meg, struggles with her life. She's living with someone she thinks she might not love
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Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

I suppose if I'm being entirely truthful, a big part of why I was so profoundly disappointed with Scarlett Thomas' Our Tragic Universe was not from the quality of the book itself, but simply from a case of mistaken assumptions; namely, based on the whimsical jacket copy and exquisite production details (in
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Steve Morris
Oh dear. I so wanted to enjoy this book. Scarlett Thomas's The End of Mr. Y is one of my all-time favourite books, yet this reads like some early precursor to that book.

This is a storyless story, and deliberately so. The story is wilfully, purposely, missing. Thomas is a lecturer on creative writing, and her protagonist Meg is also a writer who lectures on creative writing. Meg wants to write a storyless story - and so clearly does Scarlett. This novel speaks incessantly about story, plot, chara
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Lisa
Finally reached the end of this book that can be summed up in two words - mind f**k!

 photo brain-explodes_zps3cc7f7ed.jpg

It is a true example of a storyless story! How can a book divide your own opinions so completely? At times I wanted to give it 4 stars but at others zero stars (more 0 than 4).

I think the best way is just to tell you what I liked and didn't like and then you can read it and join the debate of whether it works or doesn't. (This list is as confusing and as contradictory as the book itself - sorry about that).

Thing
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Alytha
Finished Scarlett Thomas' latest novel, Our Tragic Universe.


I'm not actually sure whether I liked this novel. It's somewhere between a meta-fictional literary experiment about the nature of story and the storyless novel, and a heap of selfwankery pretentious crap.
On the one hand, the human relationships are quite nicely described, and enough weird and interesting things happen to keep you reading. On the other hand, the endless discussions that the characters have about literary theory, the natu
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Leandra
Our Tragic Universe is supposed to be another book in a series of books by Scarlett Thomas that poses questions about the universe, the end of time and the existance of man. Sadly, it fails spectacularly.

I've read both The End of Mr. Y and PopCo, and OTU just doesn't live up to the complexity of the first and the thoughtfulness and insight of our current world in the second.

The theme is inconcise - the book concerns itself with the end of the universe - an endless loop of events repeating them
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Lisa
After The End of Mr Y and now this, I'm becoming rather a fan of Scarlett Thomas. Always intelligent and original, reading and enjoying her books also has the additional bonus of making me feel quite clever at the time and (rather like Meg, this one's main character) I understand concepts I go cross-eyed over normally, even if I'll be buggered if I can explain them afterwards.

Set in a part of the world I'm very familiar with (in fact I passed Slapton's tank just this Saturday) and filled with i
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David Hebblethwaite
Given that I rather disliked the two Scarlett Thomas novels I’d previously read (Bright Young Things and PopCo), you might reasonably wonder why I even contemplated reading a third. Curiosity, I suppose — I just wanted to see if I could find one that I liked. And, well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say I particularly liked Our Tragic Universe, but certainly I found it a more worthwhile read than those earlier novels.

Meg Carpenter is a struggling writer, trying (and largely failing) to make ends me
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Christopher James
I read fast. Too fast sometimes. I can devour books (and music and films..) to the extent that I don't always give them the attention they deserve. I blame the internet - now I can be selective I haven't read a crap book for ages, and there is always something else to look forward to.

A really good book, however, will slow me down. I like a book that makes me ponder, where I have to put it down for a few minutes to digest, and just make sure I got that bit right. If a book can do that a dozen ti
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Jim
This is a complex novel. It doesn’t always read like one and you can get lulled into a false sense of security if you’re not careful. By ‘complex’ I mean ‘clever’ but it is also a hodgepodge. I mean that in the nicest possible way. There is just so much material in it and I’m not entirely convinced she manages to make all the disparate elements cohere but she has a damn good crack at it. This is, of course, based on a single read through. I suspect, had I the time and the inclination, then it wo ...more
Marc Nash
I have a real weakness for this author who won't be everyone's cup of tea. here she willfully writes a novel about narrative, but without much of one at its heart. A writer who doesn't do much writing, takes walks around the locale of Totnes, visits friends and all sorts of other procrastinating activity, while musing on the nature of fiction versus life. I know it doesn't sound much, but there are some fantastic insights in the book. There are studies of relationships here, failing relationship ...more
Tuck
gold foil cutesy/fancy cover: check. author has on a sexy velvet choker for her pic: check. philip pullman 2 word blurb, one being a definite article: check.
why didn't i like this? set in devonshire, with a MAP no less,a cool map, poor but scrappy meg, itinerant book reviewer and author/writer herownself gets sucked into a world of fairies, beasts, moors (heather type), fantastical books and characters.
i dunno, but maybe for me tooo magical and tooo real
a great dog in novel though, so one extr
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Eileen
This will really stay with me. It was engaging and entertaining, and I was surprised and disappointed to reach the end. Even a couple days later clues are coming back to me and I think, "So that's what that was!" Kind of a year in the life sort of story, rather than a telling of a particular series of events. In a nutshell I'd say it's about how the "magical" aspects of the universe, even thought the main character professes not to believe in them, shape her life, and how once she stops struggli ...more
Ebba
I bought this book because I liked the cover, but it took me ages to finally read it. I'm actually very happy that I waited so long to read it because I don't think my younger self would have understood it. But now, at this time in my life, it was absolutely perfect.

This book has everything that I like. Going into this I didn't really know what it was about, and it's actually very hard to explain even after I've read it, but believe me when I say that it's amazing. The main character Meg is a wo
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Vonia
The mind-fuck level was a little high for me here. Obviously, not on the level of, say The House of Leaves, but that is why I still love Scarlett Thomas. I really would love to meet her in person. I bet she would be fascinating to have coffee with. High tea with, I should say. The synopsis was a little misleading, as I do not feel it was really about Kelsey Newman's immortality thing/Omega Point regarding immortality/living forever. Apparently, his theory posits that at the end of time, all of u ...more
Ahalya
http://www.literaryangels.com/blog/bo...

When a writer begins to ask herself ‘what’s the point of writing anything’, you know she may never get back to writing again. There is something inherently so poisonous in the question ‘why’ that it strangulates all creativity, and all desire. Questioning the motive for spending lots of energy and time on putting down words on paper (or on any other activity, come to think of it), is the last stage of writer’s block and is something that can be cured only
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Ali
Had I been at any other point in my life, I would have hated this book. However, like Meg, I'm feeling a bit lost and aimless at the moment, and I think that is why it resonated with me. I liked Meg as a character, and I was much more interested in her life and friends than their meta, pretentious discussions they would have about storytelling, life, and the universe. I do not think that it is some eye-opening, clever, philosophical analysis of life, but I think the author was trying to achieve ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
"How do you survive the end of time? It is quite simple. By the time the universe is old enough and frail enough to collapse, humans will be able to do whatever they like with it...By then it'll just be a case of wheeling one decrepit planet to one side of the universe while another one pisses itself sadly in another galaxy. And all this while waiting for the final crunch, as everything becomes everything else as the universe begins its beautiful collapse, panting and sweating until all life arc ...more
Jade
I absolutely loved this book. Scarlett Thomas always presents an original and intelligent story, this time weaving the normalities of daily life into the big life questions and decisions that underlie everything we do. Relationship advice and how to knit a pair of socks are thrown into a soup of fate, the afterlife and moral code.

What is also brilliant about this book is how Thomas tells the tale of an author trying to write an original piece, whilst making you also consider the work of the text
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Freya Russell-Hobson
In the usual style of Scarlett Thomas, Our Tragic Universe had plenty of science and philosophy, mixed up with semi-tragic love affairs and a healthy dose of unresolved sexual tension. Our heroine, Meg, is a lost soul who writes for a living and spends her life wishing for what she doesn't have, trapped in an unhappy relationship. She's almost tragic, in the traditional sense of the the protagonist shooting themselves in the foot by allowing their flaws to run wild (ruined friendships, semi-succ ...more
Lexie Conyngham
This is the first of Scarlett Thomas’ books I have read, and I only read it by accident – a friend cast it aside feeling that it was not as described on the cover, and indeed the cover is not the best bit – it’s confusing and messy. But that’s not the book!
The story, if it is one (and it probably deliberately isn’t), concerns Meg, a struggling writer with a thoroughly unattractive boyfriend and house (so damp it affects her asthma). Meg has a contract for a ‘proper’ novel but is constantly dist
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Roberta
Il nostro tragico universo è l'ultimo libro scritto da Scarlett Thomas (nel 2010 - per favore Scarlett, dicci che pubblicherai presto un altro romanzo) e il quarto che leggo (mi manca solo Going Out - Il giro più pazzo del mondo). Personalmente trovo che PopCo sia il suo migliore, anche se mi riservo di rileggere Che fine ha fatto Mr Y, mentre il suo 'peggiore' è stato L'isola dei segreti. Questo non mi è piaciuto quanto PopCo, ma quasi, e me lo ha ricordato molto.

Meg Carpenter vive nel Devonshi
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Lolly LKH
This is an advance reading copy..

Fantastic is too corny a word to describe this novel. Meg is an author who is trying to write a novel that is meaningful but is wasting her time writing genre fiction for money. Her boyfriend Christopher is a bit of a lost cause himself, and she spends her time supporting him. She falls for a married man Rowan hence the complications and philosophical discussions. This novel is a fun read for those of you who love philosophy. Meg reviews a book ,accidentally, by
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Scarlett Thomas has taught English Literature at the University of Kent since 2004, and has previously taught at Dartmouth Community College, South East Essex College and the University of East London. She reviews books for the Literary Review, the Independent on Sunday, and Scotland on Sunday. She has written seven novels, including The End of Mr. Y and PopCo.

In 2001 she was named by The Independ
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More about Scarlett Thomas...
The End of Mr. Y PopCo Bright Young Things Going Out Dead Clever (Lily Pascale, #1)

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“One of the paradoxes of writing is that when you write non-fiction everyone tries to prove that it's wrong, and when you publish fiction, everyone tries to see the truth in it.” 13 likes
“I erased the thought from my mind, but I couldn't undo the fact that I'd had the thought in the first place.” 11 likes
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