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Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas

Our Tragic Universe

by Scarlett Thomas

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6546721,479 (3.41)76
  1. 40
    The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas (souloftherose)
    souloftherose: Scarlett Thomas' earlier novel The End of Mr Y shares many similar themes with Our Tragic Universe
  2. 01
    Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder (buchowl)

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Showing 1-5 of 66 (next | show all)
Okay, so the blurb sounded good. The picture was interesting. The cover called the author "a master of illusion". All of that was misleading. What sounded like a mysterious and fun romp was actually a slow moving, rambling, disjointed mess of Gen-X angst. The characters were all embroiled in messes of their own making, and whined a great deal, while insisting that they weren't going to do things they didn't like or want to do, and not doing any of the things they did like or want to do. There was not one sympathetic character (except the dog), and the pretentious prattling really doesn't belong in fiction (or much of anywhere else). The main redeeming thing about this book is the refusal of the protagonist (an author who spends most of her day slouching around life, sits and writes for minutes at a time, then deletes almost all of what she writes and moans because she can't finish her novel) to buy into the ridiculous ideas being proposed by most of the other characters. Myriad plot lines are introduced for about three pages, and then just sort of drift off. If the goal of the author is to do what her protagonist wants to do and write a storyless story, she has failed. There is a story here - it just isn't a good one. Selfish, indulgent, pretentious, and boring. ( )
  Devil_llama | Sep 4, 2018 |
This was a really bizarre book. The main character is a writer who is 10 years late on finishing her REAL novel, and in the meantime is a ghostwriter for a YA SciFi series (sort of like Carolyn Keene for Nancy Drew-there have been multiple writers under the one name) and living with a man who is quite possibly one of the world's most irritating male characters. Their relationship is toxic and annoying to read about. The woman also has lots of conversations with her friends about the nature of the universe and what it means to live forever. Disconcertingly, much of these conversations or explanations are told through dialog, which sort of made it less interesting to me. I don't know, it was a really weird book. But one of the more original that I've read of late. ( )
  gossamerchild88 | Mar 30, 2018 |
This novel by Scarlett Thomas has at its centre, Meg, a writer who struggles to write her own novel, while writing others under a pseudonym and also reviewing books for her local newspaper in order to make ends meet. At the same time she is in an unhappy relationship of seven years with Christopher.
In trying to resolve these problems, she is also exploring her ambivalent relationship with magic and the “storyless story” which she seems to feel will lead to her great novel. The latter appears to mirror Thomas’ writing of this book, but the philosophical discussions about these dilemmas that are part of the novel, fit uneasily into the book and thus make for an uneven flow to the plot.
  camharlow2 | Dec 7, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
From the first sixty pages, I found this to be an unpleasant tale of astonishingly pretentious characters behaving in petty ways while cheating on their significant others. And their clever references are explained in excruciating detail for us letter mortals, because presumably we wouldn't otherwise understand.

There may well have been much more interesting things to come, but I wasn't inclined to find out.

Reading this book felt to me like lingering in a draughty, municipal car-park stairwell - a sea of bare concrete with a lingering smell of stale urine. I can well believe that effect to be deliberate, a way of depicting the characters' situations (in which case it succeeded excellently in its aim), but I hated it and I gave up. Life is too short. ( )
  catherinestead | Aug 6, 2017 |
I was going to start by suggesting that Scarlett Thomas must be an extraordinary person if the protagonists of her novels are even remotely drawn upon her own character. Such an assertion is, however, probably superfluous as the simple fact of having written novels as engaging and thought provoking as 'PopCo', 'The End of Mister Y' and 'Our Tragic Universe' attests to talent beyond the ordinary. In Megan Carpenter, the narrator of 'Our Tragic Universe', Scarlett Thomas has excelled herself.

Megan is struggling to make a living from pieces of occasional journalism and writing teenage fiction under a pseudonym. Hers is a simple lifestyle complicated by the need to support her appalling and utterly inadequate boyfriend, Christopher, who spends his time engaged on voluntary work on a local heritage project. As the novel opens Megan has been reading 'The Science of Living Forever' a faux-scientific work by Kelsey Newman, a new-age charlatan who believes that the universe, which is really a computer, will for one fleeting moment become so dense and compacted as to be able to simulate a new universe that will never end, and in which everyone will live forever in infinite incarnations. Not surprisingly, in her review Megan unbends herself at some length, debunking the hapless Newman while offering a pellucid and enthralling exegesis of a number of scientific and quasi-scientific theories.

I remember attending a lecture several years ago on the concept of Horacian Liberty and the need for clarity of expression and thought, one of a series of talks on perspectives on the Renaissance. The crux of that particular address was the writer's responsibility to his or her readers, and the obligation to encapsulate even the most complex of theories in clear, simple language. This marvellous novel is a 400 page evocation of that principle. At different points within the book Megan Carpenter offers us an engaging exploration of the relationship between art and science, while also exposing the fallacious origins of many prevalent misconceptions about physics and chemistry. I can imagine people's eyes rolling now, wondering whether Ms Thomas's novel is just a hollow sounding board for her own pet likes and dislikes. I can reassure you, however, that the plot is solid, plausible and (most importantly) entirely (and instantly) gripping. I found myself caught in an insoluble dichotomy: I could not put this book down, but I was, simultaneously, reluctant to finish it

'Our Tragic Universe' is Ms Thomas at her exquisite best and Megan Carpenter is a simply astounding character: articulate, widely-read, tender, considerate and immensely empathetic.

Over the last thirty or so years I have read more than four thousand books, and would, without hesitation, place this in the top ten.

It also happens to be sumptuously presented by the Canongate Press. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Jan 28, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 66 (next | show all)
Is it odd to describe a book as kind? The commodity itself seems an increasingly rare thing in an internet-frazzled world, and so how unexpectedly wonderful to read Scarlett Thomas's Our Tragic Universe, a book that brims with compassion and warmth. I agreed with practically none of its arguments, but I was still happy to spend time debating with its characters, who are just like the exasperating, good-hearted real people you'd call your friends.
Thomas has the mesmerising power of a great storyteller – even if you’re not always sure whether what she’s telling you is exactly a story.
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Organise a fake holdup. Verify that your weapons are harmless, and take the most trustworthy hostage, so that no human life will be in danger (or one lapses into the criminal). Demand a ransom, and make it so that the operation creates as much commotion as possible--in short, remain close to the 'truth,' in order to test the reaction of the apparatus to a perfect simulacrum. You won't be able to do it: the network of artificial signs will become inextricably mixed up with real elements (a policeman will really fire on sight; a client of the bank will faint and die of a heart attack; one will actually pay you the phoney ransom), in short, you will immediately find yourself once again, without wishing it, in the real, one of whose functions is precisely to devour any attempt at simulation, to reduce everything to the real... -Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation
For Rod, with love
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I was reading about how to survive the end of the universe when I got a text message from my friend Libby.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Meg Carpenter is broke. Her novel is years overdue. So when a book called The Science of Living Forever lands on her desk, she jumps at the chance to review it, starting on a labyrinthine journey that takes her from mysterious beasts of the moor to forest fairies to ships in bottles, New Age theories of everything to physics to narrative theory, and forces her to ask: Does anyone really want to live forever?… (more)

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Canongate Books

2 editions of this book were published by Canongate Books.

Editions: 184767089X, 1847671292

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