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C [Hardcover]

Tom McCarthy
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
Price: 14.17 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

5 Aug 2010

C follows the short, intense life of Serge Carrefax, a man who - as his name suggests - surges into the electric modernity of the early twentieth century, transfixed by the technologies that will obliterate him.

Born to the sound of one of the very earliest experimental wireless stations, Serge finds himself steeped in a weird world of transmissions, whose very air seems filled with cryptic and poetic signals of all kinds. When personal loss strikes him in his adolescence, this world takes on a darker and more morbid aspect. What follows is a stunning tour de force in which the eerily idyllic settings of pre-war Europe give way to the exhilarating flight-paths of the frontline aeroplane radio operator, then the prison camps of Germany, the drug-fuelled London of the roaring twenties and, finally, the ancient tombs of Egypt.

Reminiscent of Bolaño, Beckett and Pynchon, this is a remarkable novel - a compelling, sophisticated and sublimely imaginative book uncovering the hidden codes and dark rhythms that sustain life.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; First Edition edition (5 Aug 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224090208
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224090209
  • Product Dimensions: 3.3 x 16.2 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 248,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom McCarthy was born in 1969 and grew up in London. His creation, in 1999, of the International Necronautical Society (INS), a 'semi-fictitious organisation' that combines literature, art and philosophy, has led to publications, installations and exhibitions in galleries and museums around the world, from Tate Britain and the ICA in London to Moderna Museet in Stockholm and The Drawing Center in New York. Tom regularly writes on literature and art for publications including The New York Times, The London Review of Books and Artforum.

Product Description


A supercharged, fizzingly written Bildungsroman...the remix the novel has been crying out for. (Robert Collins Sunday Times)

C is unquestionably brilliant...This is a genuinely exciting and spookily beautiful book, a new kind of joy. (Neel Mukherjee The Times)

Beautiful ... a thrilling tale. This is one of the most brilliant books to have hit the shelves this year, and McCarthy deserves high praise for an electric piece of writing which should be read and enjoyed as much as dissected and discussed. (Beth Jones Sunday Telegraph)

A dizzying, mesmeric and beautifully written work...Tom McCarthy has written a novel for our times: refreshingly different, intellectually acute and strikingly enjoyable...it seems highly unlikely that anyone will publish a better novel this year. (Stuart Evers Daily Telegraph)

Spellbinding...[McCarthy's] ideas produce the electrifying, spooked ambience of a modernist symphony (Tim Robey Daily Telegraph)

Book Description

The author of 'one of the great English novels of the past ten years' moves to the next level, with a novel of thrilling action, imagination and ambition, perfect for fans of Bolaño and Pynchon.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Abstract patterns 4 Sep 2011
I have a very wide range of taste in literature - and this was a very different book. I have finished reading it and I have been left with the same feeling I get after looking at a Jackson Pollock painting(seriously)- there are patterns and colours and multiple structural layers within it - and it is impossible to take it all in - and therefore you concentrate on the overall impact - which is emotional as well as intellectual.

(Question - is it a spoiler to tell something if it is printed on the cover?)

As other reviewers point out, the book concerns the short and very intense life of Serge Carefax born at the end of the 19th centuary. It starts with his birth at a country house to a deaf mother (with an interest in mood altering drugs) and an eccentric inventor father who runs a school for the deaf. The family contains a rather brilliant but slightly disturbed elder sister Sophie who adds a very significant dimension to his childhood. The book looks at Serge at different times in his bizarre childhood, through a surreal health farm (reminiscent of Wellville), the horror of being a radio operator during the first world war (although he enjoyed it), a drug-fueled college period and an expedition to Egypt.

The book is very definitely dark and full of black humour. The writing is superb, but it is impossible to appreciate everything in one read - I think the book will be better at a second reading. So what strikes after a first reading is the patterns that are wound throughout it and the way they repeat and are pulled together in a fantastic workspace. The idea of a crowded space, full of the trace of transmissions from the very first one, a sense of connection, codes, patterns and repetition builds constantly through the book.
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97 of 111 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far more readable than I expected 4 Aug 2010
By Adam S
Having not read any of Tom McCarthy's previous works, but having read a number of newspaper reviews of this book, I expected to never want to read it. Christopher Taylor in the Guardian chose to highlight that "McCarthy speaks the language of post-humanism. His allegiance is to the French nouveau roman and post-structuralist modes of thought..." etc , so I'd already decided it was likely to be a pile of pretentious waffle. However, at a loose end in a bookshop a few days ago I picked it up, read the first few pages, realised my preconceptions were probably wide of the mark, bought it, took it home and read it in one sitting.

The first thing to note is that C is a very enjoyable read. The comic element comes through on nearly every page, and McCarthy's permanent style of `show' rather than `tell' means that you have that slightly smug satisfaction when you 'get' the obscure jokes. A lot of the jokes are pretty dark, and reading some of the chapters felt a bit like listening to an episode of Chris Morris's underrated radio series 'Blue Jam'.

And it's not just the comic element that works this way - McCarthy manages to pack the book with literary and artistic references, and only very occasionally does it feel forced. These references fall into three categories; the ones that the reader will spot and understand the reference (in my case, very few), the ones that the reader will spot and have no idea why it is being eluded to (quite a few), and the ones that the reader misses altogether (probably lots more). One could easily re-read this book three or four times and still only get a fraction of the references. It's like reading a good book and doing a cryptic crossword at the same time. Fun, if you like that sort of thing.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Emperor's New Clothes? 9 July 2011
It looks like Tom McCarthy could be going the same way as David Mitchell - the first two novels being very good and something different but then changing track and writing something which feels hollow and contrived, as though they were trying too hard to bring post-modernism to the masses.

'C' has been critically lauded and described with many -ism type words (modernism, post-modernism and post-structuralism) some of which seem to contradict each other but people who liked his first two novels do not seem to like this one. Supposedly it takes the form of an intellectual game with the reader trying to spot references and allusions to other works and philosophies but is let down by the style of writing. Other novels which veer more towards works of art rather than traditional narrative are usually written in an interesting style, but 'C' has a flat writing style, reminiscent of many recent 'literary' works, which does not suit the, supposed, intellectualism of the work.

I had previously read and enjoyed 'Men in Space' and will probably read 'Remainder' but was disappointed by 'C'.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Hate to use the B word, but i was Bored
C by Tom McCarthy is a strange little book, I got it when it was on the Booker shortlist nearly 2 years ago now, and had several false start attempts with it before finally... Read more
Published 11 months ago by R. A. Davison
4.0 out of 5 stars anachronisms
I mostly enjoyed this book. Unlike many reviewers I was not put off by the 'emotional coldness' of the main character. Read more
Published 14 months ago by belnos
4.0 out of 5 stars Crawling with insects, signals and static
"C" is a strange and unique book, unlike anything else I've read.

I'm not sure how best to describe it - maybe a "life and times" of the main player, Serge Carrefax, a... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Secret Spi
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking Breadth Of Vision
"C" has been described as "experimental", "modernist" and even an "anti-novel" . I don't believe it is any of these at all, though it is fundamentally ambitious and... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Genome
1.0 out of 5 stars C, indeed
I'm a visual person unfortunately, therefore I am immediately attracted to pretty covers (I know, I know: don't judge a book by its cover. I know). Read more
Published 23 months ago by Poison-the-cure
1.0 out of 5 stars All Fur Coat And Nae Knickers
Just finished this but I have to admit I skipped through much of the last section because it was so contrived. Read more
Published 23 months ago by White Tea
1.0 out of 5 stars C is for Codswallop
I have found that many contemporary novels have an amazing ability for flight. Don Delillo's works in particular are often capable of truly exceptional aeronautic displays. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Thropplenoggin
2.0 out of 5 stars Trying too hard
Unfamiliar with McCarthy's other works, there was an over-riding sensation from start to finish that this writer was trying too hard. Read more
Published on 12 April 2012 by Mr. S. R. Wall
1.0 out of 5 stars a prize winner that left me cold
Pointless exercise in cleverness that seemed a terrible waste of valuable reading time. Glad it was a present rather than something I spent money on
Published on 8 Dec 2011 by A. L. Mills
2.0 out of 5 stars Much ado about nothing....
2.5 stars.

Zeitgeist author Tom McCarthy's `C' is the tale of one Serge Carrefax. Born at the end of the 19th century to a communications pioneer, particularly in the... Read more
Published on 25 Sep 2011 by BlestMiss T
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