Palmyrah's Reviews > C

C by Tom McCarthy
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's review
Sep 26, 2011

it was ok
Read in September, 2011

This was the first book I've read by this author. I read it in a very short time, which is strange if you consider that when I started it I thought I probably wouldn’t get through it at all. The way Tom McCarthy writes makes his sentences difficult to articulate mentally; reading his prose is like running the hurdles. I kept having to go back and re-read passages I had leapt or stumbled over without even noticing them. The density of the writing was partly responsible, all that literary and cultural allusion, all that symbolism – but there was something else too, some problem with rhythm and flow. Mr. McCarthy’s prose, though it tried very hard, unaccountably failed to draw me in.

Like the other two-star reviewers here, I also found the protagonist too much of a blank to feel any sympathy with, and the things that happen to him very hard to care about (although they are pretty exciting stuff in a theoretical sort of way, and beautifully, indeed lovingly described). And at the end, I wondered why the author had bothered. The whole idea of writing a historical novel about a character without historical import of his own nor any connexions with anyone who does seems to be a bit pointless.

I would also like to add that, for a novel that wears the author’s painstaking researches on its sleeve, there are too many obvious failures in the knowledge department. A railway train does not have ‘carriage-joins’; it has couplings, or conceivably corridors are intended. Cocaine cannot be daubed on the retina of the eye; Mr. McCarthy means to say ‘cornea’. And of course, having a set of largely English characters from the early years of the twentieth century converse in the mid-Atlantic accents of the early twenty-first is a very bad idea; then again, was this what evoked the comparisons to Pynchon?

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