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Our Tragic Universe

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  4,772 ratings  ·  681 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
Kindle Edition, 449 pages
Published September 1st 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2010)
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Average rating 3.44  · 
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 ·  4,772 ratings  ·  681 reviews

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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
Oct 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sep 12, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
I read the first 40 or so pages and gave up. What I've read so far rated very low.

This starts with two twenty something women in London living with long term partners, one is having an affair and one would like to have an affair. I find love triangles boring and it looked like it was going to be a big part of the book.

I like a dark sense of humour but when one of the women hears her partner is back early from a trip abroad and is trying to find a reason why the flat looks unlived in because she
Jason Brown (Toastx2)
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,
Feb 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Dustin Crazy little brown owl
Holy Shit! I loved this book because it is everything I believe in :-)
Literary Mythology, Alternate Reality, Faeries, The Fabric of the Universe, a Labyrinth, a Beast and a Telepathic Dog!

Favorite Passages:

I was reading about how to survive the end of the universe when I got a text message from my friend Libby.

'All right. So I was out with you and I lost my keys. That's bad. Then to make it worse I got gang-raped while I was looking for them, and now I've lost my memory and the kidnappe
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
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
Jan 08, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Marc Nash
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 11, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww, novels
I like metafiction much more than the next person, but this was beyond reason. It's one thing to write a structureless, boring story. It's quite another to write a structureless, boring story about writing a structureless, boring story. It's like infinity times infinity plus a whole lot of bullshit. No thank you.

The cover is beautiful though.
Apr 07, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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).

Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. 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
Beth Anne
Jul 27, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
i got 3/4 of the way through this book, and i had to quit reading. this book bored the life out of me and i kept trying and trying and...ugh.

i found it to be pretentious and boring. i disliked the narrator. and i didn't care what happened to her or any of her annoying friends. if you can call them friends.

i finally let myself stop reading. and i think i'm a better and happier person for it.
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
Aug 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Scarlett Thomas’ books have a quantum quality about them. I really enjoyed this but I feel like if I recommended it to someone they would enjoy it less. It’s as if the act of recommending it would reduce its quality. This book would be best enjoyed when stumbled upon randomly in the corner of a dusty bookshop, but would probably be terrible if it was effusively recommended. I felt similarly about The Seed Collectors.

The ‘Schrodinger’s book’ thing is apt since Thomas tends to write simple real-wo
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
Jun 15, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 20, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europa, kids-books
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
This may reflect my mood more than the book itself:

While I quite enjoyed Scarlett Thomas' writing itself, all I could think about the intellectual conversations in the novel was "what a load of pretentious pseudo-intellectual crap"... and I am in academia.
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
so for the first 200 pages i didnt really like it, I didn't find it that interesting and thought this book deserved no more than 3 stars. But after that things took a turn and interesting things started to happen, so I'll happily give this book 4 stars
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
if u dislike

- dogs
- labyrinths
- the intricacy of relationships between men and women
- the tragicomic aspects of the above and modern life in general
- funny, intelligent story-telling
- the subversive, quiet abandonment of the former
- the laconic characterisation of human archetypes
- the smooth interweaving of theories about language, philosophy, art, music, and literature with a well-crafted narrative
- magical aspects in mind-games scrutinising the alleged rationality of existence
- the clever dis
Lisabet Sarai
Sep 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Our Tragic Universe is a first person account narrated by Meg, a best-selling author of genre fiction who is struggling to finish her contracted "serious" novel, after having written--and deleted--half a million words. Meg is stuck in an unsatisfying relationship with sensitive, neurotic Christopher while she fantasizes about Rowan, a friend of friends who's much too old for her (according to her own evaluation) and married. She's too broke to afford Internet or even decent food; she's strugglin ...more
Adrian Fridge
Jul 11, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Two philosophy books jammed into a loose plot. Characters are paper thin and spend most of the ‘story’ venting to each other about either fiction writing or New Age. The actual philosophies are good in a meta way, but this can do without trying to pass for fiction.

I DNF’d at 53% when the main character finally achieves her goal, i.e. a sizable paycheck, and continues to slog along like nothing happened. I got bored by the immensely slow pace of the plot, and decided I have better things to do wi
Jun 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you read one book on my recommendation, let it be this one. It's hard to put into words what this book has meant to me over the years. Re-reading it has brought me different things each time. You either love it or you hate it if the reviews are anything to go by - I definitely love it.

This meandering book tells the story, or lack thereof, of Meg, a thirty-something struggling writer of genre fiction who wants to write a 'real' book. We find her barely scraping by and in a depressing relation
Lolly K Dandeneau
Jul 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Oct 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Scarlett Thomas comes through, at least for me, again with another exceptional book. If you've read some of her others and liked them, notably The End of Mr. y, and PopCo, you might really like this book. But you have to ask yourself first. What is it about the past books that you liked? Was it the story, the way the suspense was really well crafted? Or was it more the philosophy and ideas she played with in the novels?

If its the former, you might want to get this one from the library, if its th
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Around the Year i...: Our Tragic Universe, by Scarlett Thomas 3 18 Apr 02, 2016 09:59AM  

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Scarlett Thomas was born in London in 1972. Her widely-acclaimed novels include PopCo, The End of Mr Y and The Seed Collectors. As well as writing literary fiction for adults, she has also written a literary fantasy series for children and a book about writing called Monkeys with Typewriters. Her work has been translated into more than 25 languages.

She has been longlisted for the Orange Prize, sh

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