Summary and book reviews of Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas

Our Tragic Universe

By Scarlett Thomas

Our Tragic Universe
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2010,
    384 pages.
    Paperback: May 2011,
    384 pages.

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Book Summary

Can a story save your life?

Meg Carpenter is broke. Her novel is years overdue. Her cell phone is out of minutes. And her moody boyfriend's only contribution to the household is his sour attitude. So she jumps at the chance to review a pseudoscientific book that promises life everlasting.

But who wants to live forever?

Consulting cosmology and physics, tarot cards, koans (and riddles and jokes), new-age theories of everything, narrative theory, Nietzsche, Baudrillard, and knitting patterns, Meg wends her way through Our Tragic Universe, asking this and many other questions. Does she believe in fairies? In magic? Is she a superbeing? Is she living a storyless story? And what's the connection between her off-hand suggestion to push a car into a river, a ship in a bottle, a mysterious beast loose on the moor, and the controversial author of The Science of Living Forever?

Smart, entrancing, and boiling over with Thomas's trademark big ideas, Our Tragic Universe is a book about how relationships are created and destroyed, how we can rewrite our futures (if not our histories), and how stories just might save our lives.

Excerpt
Our Tragic Universe

I WAS READING about how to survive the end of the universe when I got a text message from my friend Libby. Her text said, Can you be at the Embankment in fifteen minutes? Big disaster. It was a cold Sunday in early February, and I’d spent most of it curled up in bed in the damp and disintegrating terraced cottage in Dartmouth. Oscar, the literary editor of the newspaper I wrote for, had sent me The Science of Living Forever by Kelsey Newman to review, along with a compliments slip with a deadline on it. In those days I’d review anything, because I needed the money. It wasn’t so bad: I’d built up some kind of reputation reviewing science books and so Oscar gave me all the best ones. My boyfriend Christopher did unpaid volunteer work on heritage sites, so it was down to me to pay the rent. I never turned down a commission, although I wasn’t at all sure what I’d say about Kelsey Newman’s book and this idea of ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Scarlett Thomas has produced something sui generis: a realist metafiction novel. I'd be hard-pressed to think of something quite like it... Thomas' portrayal of Meg's writerly routine and her struggles with the blank page make this a fantastic book for the buried writer in all of us. The book's gentle exploration of generic convention is perfect for someone just beginning to explore literature beyond the purely realist. Its often risky discussions of things like reincarnation or the omega point would please the omnivorous reader who ranges across science, philosophy, and plain old narrative. Book clubs would have a heydey with this one.   (Reviewed by Amy Reading).

Full Review Members Only (1072 words).

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Jincy Willett, author of Winner of the National Book Award
Thomas brilliantly reminds us that, despite popular representations, many women are actually staying up half the night talking ideas. One feels alone. And then one reads Our Tragic Universe.

Author Blurb Philip Pullman
A delight, not least for the quality of Scarlett Thomas's writing, which is full of a very enjoyable life and energy.

Author Blurb Douglas Coupland
Our Tragic Universe surprised me with where it goes, and in such a terrific way. Scarlett Thomas's prose is so addictive you can't help but fall deeper and deeper under her spell. How does she do it? She is a genius.

Library Journal

Few writers can mix science, philosophy, and humor as cleverly as Thomas.

Publishers Weekly

[A] delightfully whimsical novel...[Thomas] dexterously mixes the serious with the humorous.

Kirkus Reviews

[A] freewheeling intellectual journey with no destination. ... For the omnivorous reader who, like Meg, can't get enough of the insights and passions and theories and inner lives of others, Thomas's fifth novel should be an addictive delight.

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Scarlett Thomas

Scarlett ThomasFor inspiration to write a novel about a novelist trying to write a novel, Scarlett Thomas didn't have to look very far—her own life was the template. Thomas was born in London in 1972. She wrote her first novel at age six and her second one in her early twenties, but literary fame eluded her. She, like her character Meg, turned into a workaday writer, producing three mystery novels: Dead Clever, In Your Face, and Seaside (all three links go to the full text at Google), featuring the sassy sleuth, Lily Pascale, an English professor who just happens to specialize in horror and crime fiction as well as creative writing.

The success of Thomas's genre fiction allowed her to turn to more literary fare, and next she produced what ...

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