VSL// A new novel that’s funny and smart

Good news for lovers of metafiction: Our Tragic Universe, Scarlett Thomas’s whimsical labyrinth of a novel (available 9/1) is, at turns, a story within a story, a story without a story, and a story about a story without a story. It’s enough to make Charlie Kaufman weep with envy.

Meg Carpenter is a frustrated meta-novelist (naturally) with a deadbeat boyfriend and a best friend caught in a tumultuous affair. Stalled at 43 words of her own magnum opus, Meg barely pays the bills critiquing other authors’ work and ghostwriting genre shlock. While reviewing a New Age book about the end of time, she goes into an existential tailspin, pondering the universe’s unanswerable mysteries while trying to unravel her own story—if she even has one. A plot like this could, in the wrong hands, drive you mad, but Thomas’s smart, uncomplicated prose and easy humor make this twisty tale a treat, and a quick read even at 400-plus pages.

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VSL// A new novel that’s funny and smart