Author: Tom McCarthy, 2015.
Genre: Contemporary. Literary.
Other Details: Hardback. 173 pages.
Meet U. – a talented and uneasy figure currently pimping his skills to an elite consultancy in contemporary London. His employers advise everyone from big businesses to governments, and, to this end, expect their 'corporate anthropologist' to help decode and manipulate the world around them – all the more so now that a giant, epoch-defining project is in the offing.
Instead, U. spends his days procrastinating, meandering through endless buffer-zones of information and becoming obsessed by the images with which the world bombards him on a daily basis: oil spills, African traffic jams, roller-blade processions, zombie parades. Is there, U. wonders, a secret logic holding all these images together – a codex that, once cracked, will unlock the master-meaning of our age? Might it have something to do with South Pacific Cargo Cults, or the dead parachutists in the news? Perhaps; perhaps not. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.
This certainly was a very clever book in terms of the prose though not one where much happens at all and is rather a meandering journey through the consciousness of its narrator. To be fair McCarthy does warn the reader quite early on writing: Events! If you want those, you'd best stop reading now. I was glad of the warning and enjoyed the novel on its own terms without being wowed as I was with his earlier novel C.
There are quite a number of sharp observations on modern society and some laugh out loud moments. While entertaining in its way it did seem to be a case of style over substance and art for art's sake. Although it is the type of highly crafted literary novel that often graces literary prizes it did seem to be rather different to the rest of the short-list, which seemed less high brow.