Reading C by Tom McCarthy #10 – Appendix

One last post about C, the novel that seems to keep on giving by resisting any coherent interpretation. However, this post is a round-up of odds and ends that occurred to me while I was working on it.

First, a few bits by and about McCarthy himself, including an interview in the Guardian (24/07/10), which reminds me that there is so much I’m just not getting about this novel, and a recorded interview (also downloadable). Also, a piece by McCarthy himself … here

Then, as I was reading, I kept being reminded of other books that seemed to have some kind of connection with it, so here, in no particular order, are a few that resonated with me.

Alain-Fournier – Le Grand Meaulnes (variously known in English as The Lost Domain, The Lost Estate, The Wanderer). This is one of my favourite novels so I recommend it anyway, but I find certain resonances between Versoie and the lost domain that Meaulnes discovers and then spends years trying to relocate. On the other hand, Meaulnes is everything that Serge is not.

More on Alain-Fournier here and here (with photographs of some of the settings.

Kitty Hauser – Bloody Old Britain, about the archaeologist, O.S.G. Crawford, who first recognised the potential of aerial photography in archaeology. Crawford flew as an observer in World War One, and spent much of his working life with the Ordnance Survey (you can see why I was thinking of Serge, can’t you?). He was an strange and complex man, out of step with the world in which he found himself, fascinated by oddities; a man who became seized with the idea of recording aspects of life he felt were under threat. He has a huge, pretty much uncatalogued archive of photographs of things like doorways and architectural bits and pieces, kept in one of the Oxford museums. Review of book here.

A couple of years ago, I read Erik Larsen’s Thunderstruck, about Marconi and Crippen, two men with no connection whatsoever, other than that Crippen’s arrest for murder was facilitated by telegraph. In many ways, this really was a book of two halves. Both were interesting, but they didn’t belong together. However, I mention it here because of another character who featured, the scientist, Oliver Lodge, who also worked on early telegraphy. I was immediately reminded of him when I began reading C because of the way in which Lodge was so easily distractible from what he was doing, a little like Simeon – Larsen describes it as a ‘lofty dilettantism’ –and as a result missed the opportunity to trump Marconi.

He was also, in common with a number of other significant scientists (including William Crookes, whose Crookes tubes are mentioned towards the end of C), fascinated by spiritualism and the idea of being able to communicate with the dead, more so after his son, Raymond, was killed in the First World War. Lodge took part in experiments to contact his son and indeed wrote a book about them and his belief that he had indeed heard his dead son speak to him.

Christopher Frayling’s The Face of Tutankhamun also sprang to mind immediately. It’s the book of an outstanding series he made for the BBC about the (re)discovery of Egypt through its history and archaeology and the influences of those discoveries, particularly the tomb of Tutankhamun, on English and American culture. Apparently, the series is available on DVD in the US but not in the UK, which is not very helpful of them. Perish the thought I might actually want to, you know, watch it again.

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