cover image Satin Island

Satin Island

Tom McCarthy. Knopf, $24 (192p) ISBN 978-0-307-59395-5

McCarthy’s newest novel is as delightfully unclassifiable as his last effort, C. The narrator is U., a fanciful and probing anthropologist who works for a corporation he refers to simply as “the Company.” Recruited as an ethnographer on the reputation he earned through his published study of nightclub culture, U. has been commissioned by his boss, Peyman, to write what he calls “the Great Report”; but U. can’t seem to get started or be sure if he’s necessarily even working on the Great Report at any given moment. Though he associates with people who have consequential experiences (his friend Petr dies of cancer) his thoughts are more often occupied by abstract concepts, images, patterns, and theories. U. is intent on making connections and creating meaning from the information he takes in, to the point where he begins to compile dossiers on various topics including parachute accidents and oil spills. His ultimate goal is to combine all of these together into a “Present-Tense Anthropology.” The book itself subtly takes the form of his Great Report, with U. often addressing the reader, and is marked by fascinating philosophical tangents that justify the apparent lack of a story. This novel of ideas is begging to be read and reread for meaning with pens, diagrams, and maybe even a dossier or two thrown in for good measure. (Feb.)