Cover image for Satin Island : a novel
Satin Island : a novel
McCarthy, Tom, 1969 May 22-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.
Physical Description:
192 pages ; 22 cm
"When we first meet U., the narrator of SATIN ISLAND, he is sitting in the airport at Turin, caught in a delay caused by a rogue airplane. Like everyone else in the waiting area, he is sifting through airport pages on his laptop, and then through news sites, social pages, corridors of trivia...until he happens to stumble on information about an image on a famous shroud in Turin. The image itself isn't even visible on the shroud; it only emerged when some amateur photographer looked at the negative of a shot he'd taken and saw the figure--Christ's body supine after crucifixion. Only in the negative: the negative became a positive. A few decades later when the shroud was radiocarbon dated, it turned out to come from no later than the mid-thirteenth century. But that didn't trouble the believers. Things like that never do. A "corporate ethnographer, " U. is tasked with writing the Great Report. Yet at every turn, U. finds himself overwhelmed by the ubiquity of data, lost in a buffer zone and wandering through a crowd of apparitions. Meanwhile, Madison, the woman he is seeing, becomes increasingly elusive, much like the particulars in the case of the recent, highly-publicized parachutist's death, with which U. is obsessed. He also develops a perverse interest in oil spills, spending great amounts of time watching loops of clean up videos. As U. begins to wonder if perhaps the Great Report will remain a shapeless, oozing plasma, his senses are reawakened by an ominous dream of an apocalyptic cityscape. SATIN ISLAND is a novel that captures the way we experience the world today, our efforts to find meaning, to stay awake, and discern the narratives we think of as our lives"--

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library
Audubon Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Kenmore Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Julia Boyer Reinstein Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Hamburg Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize

From the author of Remainder and C (short-listed for the Man Booker Prize), and a winner of the Windham-Campbell Literature Prize, comes Satin Island, an unnerving novel that promises to give us the first and last word on the world--modern, postmodern, whatever world you think you are living in.

U., a "corporate anthropologist," is tasked with writing the Great Report, an all-encompassing ethnographic document that would sum up our era. Yet at every turn, he feels himself overwhelmed by the ubiquity of data, lost in buffer zones, wandering through crowds of apparitions, willing them to coalesce into symbols that can be translated into some kind of account that makes sense. As he begins to wonder if the Great Report might remain a shapeless, oozing plasma, his senses are startled awake by a dream of an apocalyptic cityscape.

In Satin Island , Tom McCarthy captures--as only he can--the way we experience our world, our efforts to find meaning (or just to stay awake) and discern the narratives we think of as our lives.

Author Notes

Tom McCarthy was born on May 22, 1969. He attended Dulwich College and New College, Oxford, where he studied English literature. His first novel, Remainder, was published in 2005. His other works include Tintin and the Secret of Literature, Men in Space, and C. He is also a conceptual artist and is known in the art world for the reports, manifestos, and media interventions he has made as General Secretary of the International Necronautical Society (INS), a semi-fictitious avant-garde network.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

McCarthy, author of three previous novels, including the Man Booker Prize finalist C. (2010) and the manic Men in Space (2012), tightens up his offbeat style in his slimmest novel to date. The narrator, a corporate anthropologist known only as U., has been granted free rein to devise a Great Report for his employer, the Company, an influential PR firm led by jet-setting, visionary executive Peynman. The subject of U.'s report is nothing less than the totality of the current era, the trends, behaviors, and cultural markers that define the times. As U. struggles to begin work on the document, he obsesses over seemingly disparate subjects: the suspicious circumstances of a skydiver's death, Vanuatu cargo cults, and a recent offshore oil spill. The book's long, numbered paragraphs mimic academic writing but give way to humorous accounts of U.'s romantic exploits, detailed tangents on the properties of petroleum, and flights of delusional grandeur, as anxiety mounts over whether his ambitious project will ever find its shape. This latest strange, smart narrative experiment showcases McCarthy's gift for wildly original fiction.--Báez, Diego Copyright 2015 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.



8. 8.1 And all this time, behind these apparitions, another one: the image of a severed parachute that floated, like some jellyfish or octopus, through the polluted waters of my mind: the domed canopy above, the floppy strings casually twining their way downwards from this like blithe tentacles, free ends waving in the breeze. This last picture, for me, produces, even now, a sense of calm: no angry and insistent tow, no jerks and tugs and stresses--just a set of unencumbered cords carelessly feeling the air. This sense of calm, of languidness, grows all the more pronounced when set against the panic of the man hurtling away from it below. He would have looked up, naturally, and seen the chute lolling unburdened and indifferent above him--as though freed from the dense load of all its troubles, that conglomeration of anxiety and nerves that he, and the human form in general, represented. Considering the picture, I found my focus, my point of identification within it and my attendant sympathy, shifting from the diminutive man to his expanded, if detached, paraphernalia. I felt quite happy for the latter, for its liberation into carefreeness. Parachutes, as a rule, are treated badly by their human masters: granted false release and then immediately yanked back into servitude, into yoked bondage. This one, though, had slipped the bridle--literally-- and billowed out into a freedom that was permanent and real. Its existence would have been a good and full one from this moment onwards.   8.2 The following weekend, the newspaper--the old-style broadsheet, I mean--carried a longer, more reflective article about the case. Its author was an occasional skydiver himself. He discussed the culture of the sport, its general fraternity. Sky- divers, he informed his readers, are a close-knit bunch. They have, he wrote, the feeling of being part of a tribe. This sentence jumped out at me, for obvious reasons; on reading it, I looked up at the byline, to see if I recognized the journalist's name. I didn't. I thought of my Vanuatans once again. In their tower- plunging ritual, the vines, as I mentioned earlier, were measured so as to tauten not in mid-air but rather only fractionally above the earth: the jumps deemed the best, the ones that won the diver most acclaim, were those in which the cords sprang into action as he hit the ground, plucking him back from the very jaws of death into which they'd tantalizingly allowed him, for a fraction of a second, to descend. On such perfectly realized jumps, the diver's shoulders would flick leaves and brushwood as they jerked back upwards, as though impudently scrawling the man's signature across the forest floor. The movement was extremely pleasing to observe. It was this act of scrawling, this graffiti-gesture, I now realized, that, above all other aspects of the ritual, had back then made me want to be a tower-plunger, or anthropologist, or both.   8.3 The article kept mentioning "faith." Skydivers are induced into and graduate up through a world in which faith plays a fundamental role. They must believe in their instructors; in the equipment; in the staff packing their rigs; in tiny ring-pulls, clips and clip-releases, strips of canvas, satin, string. It could be argued, wrote the author, that this belief had nothing of the devotional or metaphysical about it, since each of the things to be believed in had a solid evidential underpinning: the mechanics of a ripcord, say, or a spring-loaded riser--or, of course, on a larger scale, the overall infallibility of physics, its laws of resistance, drag and so on. Yet, he claimed, these things could only carry one so far towards a gaping hole in a plane's side, and the fundamentally counterintuitive act of throwing oneself through it: to cite the clichéd but apt maxim, they could take the horse to water, but they couldn't make it drink. That final spur, the one that carried skydivers across the threshold, out into the abyss, was faith: faith that it all--the system, in its boundless and unquantifiable entirety--worked, that they'd be gathered up and saved. For this man, though, the victim, that system, its whole fabric, had unraveled. That, and not his death, was the catastrophe that had befallen him. We're all going to die: there's nothing so disastrous about that, nothing in its ineluctability that undermines the structure of our being. But for the faith, the blind, absolute faith into whose arms he had entrusted his existence, from whose mouth he'd sought a whispered affirmation of its very possibility--for that to suddenly be plucked away: that must have been atrocious. He'd have looked around him, seen the sky, and earth, its landmass and horizon, all the vertical and horizontal axes that hold these together, felt acceleration and the atmosphere and all the rest, the fundamental elements in which we hang suspended all the time, whether we've just jumped from an aeroplane or not-- and yet, for him, this realm, with all its width and depth and volume, would have, in an instant, become emptied of its properties, its values. The vast font at which he prayed, and into which he sank, as though to re-baptize himself, time and again, would, in the blink of a dilated eye, have been voided of god- head, rendered meaningless. Space, even as he plunged into it, through it, would have retreated--recoiled, contracted, pulled back from its frontiers even though these stayed intact-- withdrawn to some zero-point at which it flips into its negative. Negative world, negative sky, negative everything: that's the territory this man had entered. Did that then mean he'd some- how fallen through into another world, another sky? A richer, fuller, more embracing one? I don't think so. Excerpted from Satin Island by Tom McCarthy. Copyright © 2015 by Tom McCarthy. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpted from Satin Island: A Novel by Tom McCarthy All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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