Saturday, 14 April 2007

Scarlett Thomas – The End of Mr Y (Review)


The End of Mr Y is a clever book full of complex ideas and a running joke about the nature of fiction. ‘I am aware that I’m not in a story’ says the protagonist with no trace of irony. ‘The world doesn’t revolve around you’ says her mother. Oh yes it does. Everything is a metaphor, and there are so many paradoxes, as the narrator says towards the end, you may be in danger of developing a headache. This is a multi-layered book that will entertain you while it makes you really think.

For example, do you believe in telepathy? Consider: this book was made up in the mind of its author, Scarlett Thomas. She gave her thoughts words and committed those words to paper. When you read those words, your mind recreates the author’s thoughts in your own mind. So are you not reading the author’s mind? Isn’t that telepathy?

Okay, let’s forget the paranormal and get scientific. Everything is made up of individual atoms, and atoms are made of smaller particles – electrons, protons, neutrons – which are themselves made of quarks. Things might get even smaller than that for all we know, in the same way that the universe might be even bigger than we think: it might be part of a multiverse. And that’s just in this space-time dimension. How many other dimensions are there?

If all this gets you thinking philosophical thoughts – do objects exist outside of language? what is consciousness? – then this is the book for you. If you don’t understand any of the above then this may still be the book for you, for Ms Thomas explains complex ideas so clearly.

The End of Mr Y is a mixture of Alice in Wonderland, The Matrix, Being John Malkovich and an introductory seminar on the deconstructionist theories of Derrida. It’s fantastic - but sometimes too clever by half. Who or what is Mr Y? Or is it Mr Why? Or is this book really about the End of Mystery? Everything is deconstructed and examined, including quantum physics, philosophy and the nature of God and religion. There are so many questions raised by this book. But it’s good fun trying to get to the bottom of them.

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