Cam's Blog

October 1, 2010

C should win the Booker

Filed under: Books — cfranc @ 9:11 am

I started Tom McCarthy’s new novel, C, this week; I’m two chapters in and already very impressed. It’s been short-listed for the Booker prize this year and I hope it wins.

The second chapter was particularly awesome. I read it two evenings ago somewhat distractedly and decided to revisit it last night. This turned out to be a wise choice, because it deserves to be read slowly and carefully. The prose is meant to be savored and rewards careful scrutiny.

The second chapter starts with a Mr. Carrefax (who is first introduced in Chapter 1) speaking at a school for the deaf to a group of parents. It reads as a perfect excuse for McCarthy to indulge in flowery prose littered with alliteration. This sort of writing is decried in general, but McCarthy uses it to great effect to characterize Carrefax as a charlatan. I was quite impressed with the way that McCarthy made the purple language work by letting the reader in on the joke: Carrefax is pulling a fast one on the parents, and McCarthy communicates this without quite revealing just what Carrefax has hidden up his sleeve, all via a few subtle hints and a healthy dose of overwrought adjectives.

There is so much to enjoy in McCarthy’s writing. For example, early in Carrefax’s speech the flow is interrupted momentarily while McCarthy describes a picture on a whiteboard behind Carrefax. The interruption works then because Carrefax’s monologue is so very wordy; the reader is almost thankful for the brief respite. Then, later in the scene, Carrefax turns round to wrap his knuckles on the whiteboard to emphasize a point. Since McCarthy prepared the ground in advance, the reader is able to experience this, and then have Carrefax jump back into his monologue, without the author needing to explain why Carrefax tapped the whiteboard. McCarthy judiciously gave the explanation earlier in the chapter at an opportune moment, and is then able to collect with interest upon his wise judgement. It is just one example of the many wonders in McCarthy’s writing.

This is McCarthy’s third book, and after just two chapters of C I am already sure that I’ll be reading his other books shortly. If he doesn’t win the Booker this year, I’ll be very surprised.

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