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1 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

C

by

C Cover

ISBN13: 9780307593337
ISBN10: 0307593339
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. There are many C’s in C. On page 292, Pacorie says to Serge:

Surtout, the C: the C is everywhere.”

“The sea?” asks Serge.

“The letter: C.”

“What’s C?”

Carbon: basic element of life.”

What is the significance of carbon throughout the novel? What other C’s do you notice, and what might they mean?

2. Read the epigraph from Omar Khayyám. What does this tell us about what we’re about to read?

3. How does McCarthy use the metaphor of transmission and reception? How does the recurrence of codes in the novel tie in to this?

4. At one point in the novel, a character is buried with a wireless transmitter key. How does the relationship between technology and mourning play out in the novel?

5. Serge has trouble with physical perspective. How does this affect his behavior? How does he fare with psychological perspective?

6. How would you describe Serge’s relationship with Sophie? What aspects of their childhood relationship does Serge retain throughout his life? What parts—if any—is he able to leave behind?

7. Discuss the pageant at Versoie. Why did Mr. Carrefax choose the story of Persephone? How does it tie in to the novel’s themes?

8. “What he means is that he doesn’t think of what he’s doing as a deadening. Quite the opposite: it’s a quickening, a bringing to life” (page 159). How does Serge’s attitude toward life and death help him in the war and beyond? How does it harm him?

9. “Just Imagine,” Simeon Carrefax says to Serge on page 198, “if every exciting or painful event in history has discharged waves of similar detectability into the ether—why, we could pick up the Battle of Hastings, or observe the distress of the assassinated Caesar. . . These things could still be happening, right now, around us.” What does this tell the reader about Simeon? And what does Serge’s reaction reveal?

10. In London, Serge develops a heroin habit: “Every week Serge hands over to Barney the fruit of Versoie’s trees and beehives, Barney hands over the goods, and sister roils and courses through his veins” (page 185). What effects does Serge achieve through his drug use? What does he escape thereby, and what—if anything—do the drugs help him see more clearly?

11. Discuss the Miss Dobai setpiece. What point is McCarthy making here?

12. What role does Widsun play? When he requests a private appendix to Serge’s report, what is he asking for?

13. Reread the passage that begins in the middle of page 253, with “Ignoring his words. . .” How is Petrou’s explanation of Sophia significant?

14. Falkiner says to Serge, “This is part of what we’re studying, or should be studying: you have to look at all of this, at all these histories of looking” (page 278). What does he mean by, “histories of looking”? How does this affect your reading of the novel?

15. What is the significance of Osiris and Isis for Serge and Sophie? Why does Serge say, “Isis was a coherer” (page 284)?

16. Serge writes Méfie-toi, “beware,” in his notebook. Why?

17. On page 290, Laura tells Serge that in some burials, “the deceased’s unreported deeds, clandestine history and guilty conscience” were recorded on scarabs. What do insects represent in the novel, from Mrs. Carrefax’s silkworms to the one that bites Serge?

18. How would you interpret Serge’s hallucinations and fever dreams on his journey back to Cairo?

19. Read the complete text of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 65. How does it relate to Serge’s life?

Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,


But sad mortality o’ersways their power, 


How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea, 


Whose action is no stronger than a flower?

O, how shall summer’s honey breath hold out

Against the wreckful siege of batt’ring days, 


When rocks impregnable are not so stout, 


Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?


O, fearful meditation! where, alack, 


Shall Time’s best jewel from Time’s chest lie hid?

Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back? 


Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid? 
   

O, none, unless this miracle have might,
   

That in black ink my love may still shine bright.

20. What is a dummy chamber? Why does Serge, in his delirium, say they’re “everywhere” (page 309)?

21. Reread and discuss the last paragraph of the novel. How did you interpret it?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 5 comments:

EdwardjK, January 25, 2011 (view all comments by EdwardjK)
This has to be the strangest book I have ever read.

I read about 20 pages a day and found myself half-way through the book and still not understanding the storyline. Since I invested so much time in it, I kept going until reaching the end. Ok, it ended and I am still not sure I get it.

After finishing the book a few days ago, I still have no feeling about it. If someone asked me what I thought about the book, all I can say is "I read it", but I still have no idea what I read.
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(4 of 8 readers found this comment helpful)
Michael B Padrick, January 12, 2011 (view all comments by Michael B Padrick)
One of my favourite books of the past year, C is a strangely-engrossing tale in which the main character serves primarily as a commentary about the first quarter of the 20th Century, the emergence of technology, and our reliance upon it. Despite these themes - or because of them - the book will grab you from the beginning and never let you go. The comments and acclaims re McCarthy's novel being a challenge to the form itself are entirely justified. A very, very good read.
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(5 of 10 readers found this comment helpful)
smithersthree, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by smithersthree)
Not only beautifully written, but an important book, one of the few I have read in a long time. C advances the literary form, opening up new possibilities and challenging the stale paradigms that have trapped the contemporary "Novel" for far too long.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780307593337
Author:
McCarthy, Tom
Publisher:
Knopf
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Technology
Subject:
Self-actualization (psychology)
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Publication Date:
20100907
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
9.52x6.64x1.23 in. 1.32 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

C Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.95 In Stock
Product details 320 pages Knopf Publishing Group - English 9780307593337 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

This novel reads like intercepted radio transmissions from the first two decades of the 20th century: a looping cacophony of coffins, cabaret, cocaine, and cryptology. Serge Carrefax hunts for meaning in minutiae and for secret messages from his dead sister, his journey carrying him to a multitude of locales: the mansion where he spent his childhood, a German spa, the trenches of the First World War, Soho séances, and Egyptian tombs. McCarthy betrays the truth that life can hold moments of flickering significance, even if they're hidden in a deluge of patternless data and doggy-style sexual encounters.

"Review" by , "A marvelously inventive novel, swept along by the sheer energy of its prose."
"Review" by , "In creating a work that recycles itself and our culture, McCarthy has produced something truly original."
"Review" by , "[McCarthy] fuses a Pynchonesque revelry in signs and codes with the lush psychedelics of William Burroughs to create an intellectually provocative novel that unfurls like a brooding, phosphorescent dream."
"Review" by , "Remarkable not for its austerity but for its unlikely, panoramic ambition....C is a bird so rare as to seem oxymoronic: an avant-garde epic, the first I can think of since Ulysses."
"Review" by , "With C, Tom McCarthy has written an avant-garde masterpiece — a sprawling cryptogram — in the guise of an epic, coming-of-age period piece....C is coming-of-age as philosophy, philosophy as fiction, fiction as 'dummy-chamber' ('the real thing's beyond') — the novel as encrypted code for life."
"Synopsis" by , Serge Carrefax spends his childhood at Versoie House, where his father teaches deaf children to speak when he's not experimenting with wireless telegraphy. Sophie, Serge's sister and only connection to the world at large, takes outrageous liberties with Serge's young body — which may explain the unusual sexual predilections that haunt him for the rest of his life.
"Synopsis" by , C has been shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize.

The acclaimed author of Remainder, which Zadie Smith hailed as “one of the great English novels of the past ten years,”gives us his most spectacularly inventive novel yet.

Opening in England at the turn of the twentieth century, C is the story of a boy named Serge Carrefax, whose father spends his time experimenting with wireless communication while running a school for deaf children. Serge grows up amid the noise and silence with his brilliant but troubled older sister, Sophie: an intense sibling relationship that stays with him as he heads off into an equally troubled larger world.

After a fling with a nurse at a Bohemian spa, Serge serves in World War I as a radio operator for reconnaissance planes. When his plane is shot down, Serge is taken to a German prison camp, from which he escapes. Back in London, hes recruited for a mission to Cairo on behalf of the shadowy Empire Wireless Chain. All of which eventually carries Serge to a fitful—and perhaps fateful—climax at the bottom of an Egyptian tomb . . .

Only a writer like Tom McCarthy could pull off a story with this effortless historical breadth, psychological insight, and postmodern originality.

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