Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tom McCarthy's Remainder

I quit reading this novel the first time I tried it, maybe ten pages in. The voice seemed awfully deadpan, and the premise -- a guy is injured in a terrible accident and is paid lots money not to talk about it -- only sort of interesting. I kept going because Matt Tiffany at Condalmo likes it so much. I'm glad I did, because although my initial impressions weren't all wrong, and I found myself speed-reading through some tedious parts, in the end I was dumbstruck.

It's hard to even talk about, because so much of the pleasure of Remainder is in the strange and unexpected ways it builds and gathers. I guess I can say this much: after his accident, and with his almost unlimited resources, the protagonist feels an irresistible drive to recreate a building he sees in a vision. This drive -- where it comes from, how it changes, where it leads -- is what the book is about. What a strange thing for a book to be about!

It reminds me a bit of Magnus Mills, whose characters also undertake odd and possibly meaningless tasks in a deadpan fashion, but unlike Mills, McCarthy goes all the way with his ideas -- he follows through. It's been two days since I've finished it, but my brain still feels weird. I feel like Remainder had things to say about art, fiction, history, trauma, the 20th century, terrorism, math, memory -- everything.

Well, JRL's reading it now, and no doubt he'll be more eloquent when he posts about it.

4 comments:

TIV: the individual voice said...

Rhian: Got the package; you are so generous and thoughtful. Excited about reading a new author's short stories this weekend. I glanced and can tell they will inspire.Loved the pics. Boys! Chickens! And the "news" and will be sending off my own over the weekend. It's marathon work days now.

jrlennon said...

I have finished reading this book and it is awesome. I'll post about it soon...

Matthew Tiffany said...

I'm glad you both liked it. It's nice when an idea is so perfectly executed.

jrlennon said...

Yes, thank you for the recommendation, Matthew!