Our Tragic Universe(ity?), Karin Tidbeck, Decadent Lit, Last Drink, Goodbye Again

(The extremely talented Karin Tidbeck, late of Clarion San Diego, safely re-ensconced in Sweden, signing her first collection, just debuted! She signed a copy for Peter F. Hamilton, among others. Me want book even though me no can read!)

I reviewed Scarlet Thomas’s Our Tragic Universe (not “University” as in the headline) for the Washington Post. I like digressions and meandering in my novels, but even for me, this book was self-indulgent, baggy, unbelievable, lectury, annoying, AND DID NOT PROPERLY DEPLOY THE MONSTER!, well-written, witty, at times, yes, even charming…but ultimately a big ole pile of almost-cool. Rarely have I, page by page, found myself hoping so much for some kind of recovery, because on a line-by-line level there’s much to like. I really now want to seek out her other work, and even though I also agree with this NYT book review, seek out Adam Roberts’ Strange Horizons’ review for a more positive opinion (even though I think he’s temporarily gone bonkers). I have a feeling the author will want to flense me alive after reading the review, but I really really do hope others like this book more than I did.

Where has the decadent novel gone? What the bleeping bleep-bleep?!?! Yeah, well, the respectable Decadents got reclassified as Symbolists–or that’s how the joke goes. But this was not perceived as particularly upstanding stuff at the time, so why’s he going lookin’ for it in the hoity-toity places? How about giving K.J. Bishop a bit of your time? Or some of M. John Harrison? Rikki Ducornet? Some of my stuff (although, you know, I can’t even take the Decadents seriously, because there’s something wrong in mah head–I am an absurdist.) A ton of others, but you might find them in, ahem, New Weird (if that term makes you allergic, consider calling it Motile Weird). In fact, if you’d looked a little closer, you might’ve found The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich, just published.

Amazon has given Shared Worlds a substantial grant–more next week!

Also, I had the date for Capclave and the Last Drink Bird Head awards wrong–it’s October 23, not October 16, now corrected here.

Borne borne borne.



  1. PhilRM says

    I can’t remember how I came across Krilanovich’s “The Orange Eats Creeps” – maybe it popped up in association with Brian Conn’s “The Fixed Stars” – but the Steve Erickson intro made purchasing it a no-brainer. I’m about 50 pages into it; so far, it’s been a pretty wild ride.

  2. Jeff VanderMeer says

    It’s totally nuts. I’m experiencing it more than totally enjoying it, but I like stuff that’s fairly unclassifiable.

  3. says

    That Scarlett Thomas book is a strange one, isn’t it? I don’t know if you had space in your review, or if anyone would in a short piece, to really get across what’s going on with it. The flaws you describe are all there, but they’re also pretty clearly intentional–she makes it plain that she’s setting out to write something of an anti-story. Like you, I’m totally sympathetic to that, but the thing is, the book still doesn’t work.

    Turns out it’s really hard to say why one loose, baggy monster succeeds and another fails. For me, anyway.