Zero Degree Everything: An Interview with Tom McCarthy | Novel | Duke University Press
Tom McCarthy's fiction quite palpably poses a challenge to entrenched Remainder, the book that first brought attention to McCarthy as a novelist, in the active creation of the patterns and relationships that form his experience of the world. “The end point to which [design] strives is a state in which the world is one. Patrick Ness finds much to admire in Tom McCarthy's refreshingly idiosyncratic word-of-mouth hit, Remainder. At a loose end, he goes to a party and sees a crack in a wall. Filled with overwhelming déjà vu, he copies the. McCarthy's ground-breaking novel Remainder, about a young man awarded a relationship McCarthy continues to stoke as the founding member of the . There's all there is in the end—the police agent just sitting in this.
Using his settlement and enlisting the help of a logistics expert, he buys two whole buildings, moves out every tenant, recreates the exact interior design of his memories, and - with the help of an ever-increasing staff - hires actors on hour call to re-enact small, insignificant actions such as the setting down of a rubbish bag.
The re-enactment is a success, giving the narrator a brief but potent connection to reality. So begins a re-enactment addiction, starting with events as banal as a trip to a petrol station through to the recreation of a shooting in his Brixton neighbourhood.
He even starts re-enacting the re-enactments. It can only be a matter of time before things veer out of control.
Review: Remainder by Tom McCarthy | Books | The Guardian
But is all as it seems? The narrator is haunted by the smell of cordite; there are characters who might not be real; and he begins to fall into catatonic trances brought on by the re-enactments.
Did he in fact die in the traumatic event? McCarthy wisely lets the question remain open, finding instead a marvellous closing image of a plane flying a figure of eight - which, of course, is also the symbol for infinity. He started out by giving the agents lines of Shakespeare and Browning, but then the Germans started doing crash courses in English literature.Remainder official UK trailer
That was true, in a way, because their life expectancies were about 6 weeks. As soon as they started transmitting, the Germans would hunt down their signal and home in on them and pull them in for torture, which is why they had cyanide.
But I think he wrote the wrong movie. Anyway, all that stuff is very much behind C: Serge in C spends his childhood tuning into radio frequencies. And in Tintin and the Secret of Literature, you talk a lot about Tintin deciphering radio transmissions at the beginning of The Blue Lotus. And in Tintin, as in C, those cryptic signals always lead to the crypt.
Remainder – Tom McCarthy
Q The White Review — It makes me think of something you wrote about the writer being like a wireless, receiving transmissions. A Tom McCarthy — Yes. He is, to me, an emblem of the writer: Q — Serge is a character who absorbs everything around him. A Tom McCarthy — He absorbs and filters. I was probably about 18 or 19 when I read Ulysses and that taught me how to write.
What Joyce is doing is creating electricity. Everything becomes this huge network in which any division between outer space and inner space collapses.
Characters in proper literature have always been ruptured, networked, inauthentic.
This is what makes, and has always made, character in the novel. So to complain that there are no proper characters in C just seems slightly absurd. A Tom McCarthy — This is another thing. Nineteenth-century realists knew that what they were doing was a convention.
- Remainder Reader’s Guide
With a publicity boost from Zadie Smith, who described Remainder as "one of the great English novels of the last 10 years", McCarthy's reputation went global. A second novel, Men in Space, explored the disintegration of eastern Europe, the decaying orbit of a stranded ex-Soviet cosmonaut and the forgery of a medieval icon painting.
And now there is McCarthy's new book, C published by Jonathan Cape this week and longlisted for the Booker prizea layered, deceptive tour through early 20th-century modernity, taking in radio, war, encryption, paranoia, sex and death. The Waste Land and Ulysses. I wanted C to be a kind of archaeology of literature. But I think all 'proper' literature always has been an archaeology of other literature.
The task for contemporary literature is to deal with the legacy of modernism.
I'm not trying to be modernist, but to navigate the wreckage of that project. The book, he says, grew out of research on Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon, the discoverers of Tutankhamun. Excavating the records led McCarthy to a series of strange coincidences that he traced through literary history, from Nabokov to the Egyptologists, and from Freud's case history of Sergei Pankejeff the "Wolf Man" to Marconi and Alexander Graham Bell.
If things keep coming back, you just think: And you realise this is a kind of fault line in western literature. I just wanted to explore it.