Monday, December 6, 2010
There has never been a book that I anticipated more than this one. I've been waiting to read this book for over two years. I read McCarthy's first novel, Remainder and loved, loved, loved it. It's among my twenty favorite books of all-time. From the instant I read the last page, I wanted to read more by McCarthy. There is no book like Remainder which probably explains why it took McCarthy seven years to find a publisher. I started looking and found that he was in the midst of writing C and so I began waiting for it. Meanwhile, another book of his was published overseas but not here. Then, finally, C came out.
Perhaps my anticipation did me in. C pales to McCarthy's first book but is still a nice piece of writing. The story is out there, not nearly as much as Remainder, but it's odd. As a matter of fact, I doubt it would be published had Remainder not been published previously.
The novel details the life of Serge Carrefax, a lad from rural England. The book begins in the late nineteenth century where Serge is a child growing up in a strange household. His mother runs a silk business, collecting silk from worms then dyeing and selling the output. The man of the house, thought by Serge to be his father, is an inventor who is involved with the telegraph and radio but whose primary occupation is the head of a school for the deaf.
Different portions of Serge's life are depicted in each section of the book. His childhood, which involves the suicide of his sister, makes up the first. He then goes to school, joins the military as a pilot, then post World War I becomes involved with establishing communication lines in Egypt.
Throughout, Serge is obsessed with messages and trying to link sound and radio waves to something more spiritual. This search of meaning seems to be the focus of the book. And just like signals can be crossed, muddled, or garbled, so to does this book often become. Communication struggles abound.
Some of this may be due to Serge. The book is written in the third-person and Serge comes across as a bit mechanical (which makes sense for someone trying to receive signals). His sister's death barely affects him. Despite being a smart guy, he never registers that his true father is his supposed father's friend. While he frequently has sex with various women, he only is ever willing to do so in a single position, one which seems to have nothing to do with the woman or his pleasure. Mostly he waits and observes.
Through it all, you never get a sense of what on earth the point of the story is. There's no climax to the story, no denouement. Which may be the point. I don't know.
When I read, I tend to read for entertainment and/or information. While I wasn't particularly entertained by C, it was impossible to disregard how well constructed it was, almost like drinking a high-end chardonnay when you're normally a red wine drinker. As a result, and maybe a little bit because of my enjoyment of Remainder, I am giving C one star.