Feature

Novel of the week: C by Tom McCarthy

Tom McCarthy's new novel is a “tour de force.”

(Knopf, $25.95)

The emotionally arrested protagonist of Tom McCarthy’s “tour de force” new novel is a seeker of “the message behind all messages,” said Jennifer Egan in The New York Times. Born into England’s upper class just before the 20th century’s dawning, Serge Carrefax becomes in his abbreviated life a World War I pilot, an architect, a radio enthusiast, and a spy. But McCarthy, the author of Remainder, hasn’t written a bildungsroman so much as “a rigorous inquiry into the meaning of meaning”—and why man feels the need to search for meaning at all. Seemingly riddled with intentionally obscured subtexts, “this strange, original book is—to its credit—a code too nuanced and alive to fully crack.” The complexity of McCarthy’s historic pastiche is “truly impressive,” said Christopher Tayler in the London Guardian. Yet a reader can develop “a dispirited feeling” that its greatest rewards are reserved for devotees of arcane literary theories. At times, the novel seems like a sendup of literary deconstruction.

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