Sunday, September 19, 2010

Our Tragic Universe


Ah! Cover magic works again. This cover was too delicious to pass up. I had to look. Yahoo! It's a new book by Scarlett Thomas, Our Tragic Universe. Isn't it great to come across a book by an author you like that you didn't know about? Oh happy day. I have already read The End of Mr. Y and loved it. That one is a fascinating novel about an unread book, science, death, time travel and brilliant writing. It's also another A+ cover. Before that there was the brilliant PopCo where Alice must solve the riddle of the anonymous notes with her codebreaking skills and at the same time stop the power hungry corporation and find her missing father.
Writer Meg Carpenter's Tragic Universe is stuck in a boring relationship, wildly attracted to a 65 year old professor, broke, her career is a hand to mouth mish-mash of teaching writing, freelance work, ghostwriting and Ya thrillers written under a pen name. She does have a Serious Literary Novel in the works but it is way past deadline and keeps expanding and then shrinking back to the same 43 words on a regular basis. Her friends lives are on a similar level of dysfunction. When Meg is offered a job reviewing The Science of Living Forever she is eager to take the assignment. A girl's got to make a living right? It turns out that The Science of Living Forever wasn't sent to her by an editor to review but instead by some maybe mystical force that might now be bringing a level of coincidence into her life that is bordering on the magical.

That's it for the usual will Annie end up happy and save the farm storytelling stuff in Our Tragic Universe. Then? Nothing but questions. Big nature of things and what is fictions kinds of questions. Now the page turning begins. An idea novel that is a page turner? Nontraditional storytelling that I ate up? Seriously? Oh yes my friend and there's knitting too! This is unconventional fiction that is funny and energetic. It's got all the big elements of book boredom for me: science, philosophy and intellectual ruminations. With Scarlett Thomas behind them I can cheer. I was fascinated. The more novels she writes the smarter and more entertained I become.

Our Tragic Universe made me sad. I'll never be able to read it again for the first time. ~Sob~


P.S. When I went to Houghton's web site to get the link to Tragic I saw that they had a book trailer for the book. I watched it. It was the first time I ever watched a book trailer. Are they all like this because that was a long 2 minutes and 17 seconds let me tell you. It consisted of shots of the book being set down in public places for people to find and read with some tinny background song playing. OK. There is an intense level of delight in getting a free book but the old lady librarian in me doesn't want to find books lying around outside and the Lysol loving cootie killer in me doesn't want to pick something up outside that has been who knows where and for how long. The bookseller in me laughs out loud that people at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Fenton Mud think that this book drop was a Marketing Plan. Can't you just picture the meeting that led to this plan being given the green-light? I wish I could convince myself that some intern can up with this brilliant idea and not a marketing professional. In the catalog where Our Tragic Universe was originally listed there is a heading for advertising. This plan allowed them to check off that box. Good job guys. I'm sure this Marketing Plan led to some good numbers.

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