Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Tom McCarthy - Satin Island (Vintage, 2015) **

I am perplexed. The new Pynchon? The new Beckett? The new Don DeLillo? Huh? Who are you kidding? No, no, no. There is no comparison. McCarty does his best, for sure, and his prose is all his own, no doubt about that. Yet he is far from having created the existential reading experience of the names mentioned above.

It is interesting though. The narrator is an ethnographer who is asked by a company to understand the market and customers and all aspects underlying their interaction so as to sell more. The whole concept remains vague and uncertain, also to the narrator. At the same time, it gives him the opportunity to write his Great Report about the underlying forces of society. That's the story. Nothing happens otherwise, apart from the narrators own day-to-day life and his observations of society around him, which presents itself as quite meaningless as an accumulation of ordinary objects and facts.

Sure, all this leaves you, as the reader, completely perplexed. What is happening? You don't know. In that sense, reference to Pynchon can be made. But that's about it. There is at no single moment a trace of human emotion that you can identify with in such a way to make this book gripping. Or is that the purpose? Maybe. Maybe the purpose is to give such a basic account of reality that there is no story, no plot, no human emotion nor any purpose to find. Fine. But that does not make this compelling reading.

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