Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2010
: Scarlett Thomas is a nimble writer, joyfully unseating and upholding cozy fiction conventions in Our Tragic Universe
as she builds a story around Meg Carpenter, a writer who--as a genre fiction ghostwriter, book reviewer, and writing coach--has immersed herself in every nook and cranny of her craft to keep herself afloat... and to stay at arm's length from the "real" novel she just can't get her head around. The thoughts that consume her in the meantime range widely, touching down on storytelling, magic, coincidence, love, and what it might be like to live forever. (Her wryly observed theory is that it "would be like marrying yourself, with no possibility of a divorce.") In the hands of a less talented writer (and thinker), such a litany could easily devolve into a meandering mess. Not so here: Meg's searching soul is remarkably controlled, making her a protagonist you trust and want to follow, even when--in fact, especially when--you're not entirely sure where she's going. It's always clear that Meg's journey isn't aimless, and you'll be delighted to find--as she does--that the best stories "make someone surprised to see the picture, and even more surprised when they realize they had all the pieces all along." --Anne Bartholomew
From Publishers Weekly
Thomas's delightfully whimsical novel riffs on the premise that ordinary lives stubbornly resist the tidy order that a fiction narrative might impose on them. Meg Carpenter, a young writer living hand-to-mouth in Devon, pens book reviews, science fiction novels, and pseudonymous YA thrillers while the serious literary novel she dabbles at keeps ballooning and shrinking back to the same 43 words. Though Meg reviews New Age titles that lay out organized plans for one's life (and afterlife), her own life is an unruly mess, encompassing a slacker boyfriend and his amusingly dysfunctional family, friends having extramarital affairs, and associates who can't balance their vocations and avocations. Enough propitious coincidences occur to suggest her life might also admit the occasional intrusion of the magical. Thomas (Popco) dexterously mixes the serious with the humorous and provides a cast of characters who come across as credible owing to their recognizable foibles and fallibility.
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