OUR TRAGIC UNIVERSE by Scarlett Thomas
“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 arcs out of it and all matter in existence is crushed into a single point and then disappears.”
Review by Betsey Van Horn (AUG 30, 2010)
What makes Scarlett Thomas’ writing stand out is her gift of largesse–the narrator’s generosity combined with a brainy appeal that tunneled fluidly into my psyche. She is plainspoken and warm and yet finely cultivated. Thomas introduces esoteric principles as if it were the natural state of things. She can talk about Derrida and Darwin in a way that is effortless, intuitive. Her protagonist’s voice is addictive and honest; indeed, Meg’s thoughts mirror the everyday banter inside my head. Like an overlapping image in pictures, her voice became my voice.
Meg is stuck. She is stuck in a dead-end relationship with Christopher, while her lips sting from a memorable kiss with unavailable Rowan. She lives in a damp, asthma-inducing flat in Totnes, bogged down in a job writing reviews of science books, as well as ghost-writing plot-o-matic, genre sci-fi. The novel she began long ago is headed toward entropy. Every time she adds 800 words, she deletes 780 more. At present, Meg has 43 words, and just about that many ВЈ left to her name.
At this time, Meg is reviewing a new science book by Kelsey Newman, who has written The Science Of Living Forever. Newman advances the theory of the coming Omega Point, which is the moment that the universe becomes so dense and full of energy that it will be able to simulate another universe, a new one that will never end, and one in which we will live happily ever after. Forever. Meg dismisses this hypothesis, but it lodges in her mind and lingers in her thoughts.
Our Tragic Universe is not a post-modern novel, despite the implications of the jacket blurb. Yes, there are big ideas and lots of brilliant concepts buzzing on the pages, and speculative philosophies layering the story. But the core of the novel is about love; second chances; the future; the fabric of the universe; how to knit socks; a dog named Bess; a beast from Dartmoor; and how to write a storyless story that may save your life. It is an accessible labyrinth, a compelling page-turner that frequently made me feel smarter than I am and more hopeful than I thought I could be. It is a journey of the mind and body, and there’s plenty of love and friendship and everyday twists and tangles.
My only (and very minor) complaint is that Meg, who is similar (in voice and sensibilities) to Alice, in Thomas’ earlier PopCo, thrashes far longer than Alice in her muddling inertia–a bit of navel-gazing. But she is gradually climbing out of her torpor, for the threat of failure has imposed itself on a woman who believes only in its spectacular opposite.
This book is alive with keen contradictions and spirited connections. These are characters you can relate to; they have problems that are infinitely human. The prose flows with reflective, radiant purity and clarity that will cast you under her spell and give you fairy wings to fly through the pages. The narrator’s tone is like the best friend you always wanted to have. Scarlett Thomas is a celestial storyteller–a supernova, a literary bodhisattva.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 47 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (September 1, 2010)|
|REVIEWER:||Betsey Van Horn|
|AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK?||YES! Start Reading Now!|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||Scarlett Thomas|
Complete Review on Our Tragic Universe
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