Rhian intimated that I would be more articulate than she in my admiration for Tom McCarthy's Remainder, but I find myself at as much a loss as she was. It's a very peculiar piece of work, and one I enjoyed enormously--in fact I quickly added it to the syllabus of this "Weird Stories" class I'm teaching this semester.
It reminds me, as it did R., of Magnus Mills, but also of Kazuo Ishiguro, and to some extent The Magic Mountain. It's a book in which the narrator is concealing something from the reader, and possibly from himself as well. It's also about memory, a favorite subject of mine. Perhaps the most shocking thing about it is how completely is succeeds in the very ambitions I set for myself in writing my current novel-in-progress--though McCarthy and I are writing to different ends. I hope my book ends up being a tenth as absorbing as his.
The story, such as it is, is about a man who, in the wake of a mysterious accident, has an epiphany while staring at a crack in the wall of a friend's bathroom, which epiphany leads him to embark upon a series of increasingly elaborate re-enactments of apparently meaningless moments, in the hope of...well, we don't have any idea why he's doing it, actually. The plot is not quite the point here, though--it's the voice, which lives on this razor's edge between utterly convincing and completely unbelievable, and it's that sense of impending and inevitable collapse that drives the novel. He pretty much pulls it off in the end, though I found myself wishing it weren't so...Fight-Clubby. That said, if there was no such thing as Fight Club, I might have had no problem with it at all.
In any event, its success is derived from its attention the detail--it is, in fact, about detail itself--how we remember it, and how those memories create meaning. It would be the perfect assigned text to accompany my "ordinariness" post of last week--it shows that the ordinary is extraordinary, in as strange and satisfying a manner possible.
As for my novel...for better or worse, I'm sending it out tomorrow. How a person knows when his novel is finished is a topic for another day. (Although, hint: a person has no goddam idea.)