x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The storyless story

If you have the patience to stick with Our Tragic Universe, a book without chapters, a "storyless story", it will become clear why Douglas Coupland calls British author Scarlett Thomas "a genius."

If you have the patience to stick with Our Tragic Universe, a book without chapters, a "storyless story", it will become clear why Douglas Coupland calls British author Scarlett Thomas "a genius." Our Tragic Universe Scarlett Thomas Canongate Dh72 Like many of Coupland's own books, it serves as a vehicle for characters to muse about ideas big and small. On a story level, it's about Meg, an author in a disintegrating relationship who ghostwrites teenage thrillers and can't complete her first serious novel.

In between knitting, playing guitar, dog-walking and writing book reviews, she explores big concepts, such as animal ESP, the placebo effect, natural selection and eternity: "Living forever would be like marrying yourself, with no possibility of divorce." At times, Thomas flirts with dramatic possibilities - a romance with an older man, poltergeists, the Beast of Dartmoor, a cosmic ship in a bottle - but she leaves these elements unresolved to make a point about narrative. Is Our Tragic Universe, like the TV series Seinfeld, a book about nothing? Yes, but it's also a book about everything.