It’s not often I read an entire novel in one sitting, but I did with Tom McCarthy’s Remainder. Whether that’s a testament to the gravity of my insomnia last night or Tom McCarthy’s novel, I’m not sure, but Remainder certainly didn’t put me to sleep. 3AM: Magazine voted Remainder their book of the year, which is what first got my attention – and certainly it’s one of the most memorable novels I’ve read recently. It’s philosophical and absurd and distant – the world seen second hand, at one remove. It’s glacially brilliant but horribly cold – there’s flashes of humour but a total disconnection from other people, an interiority of the mind played out through the length of the book.
It reminds me of Will Self in a straitjacket, the effect clinically cruel like Self’s but the prose much more under control, sparse and lean, centering continually back on its main theme; and for the reader, this reader anyway, it creates a slightly nauseous feeling in the stomach way before the “shock” ending. It’s funny that I am writing about a book almost devoid of emotion in purely emotional terms, perhaps because by the end it left me feeling wholly empty. Not in a good or a bad way, just – in a way. Perhaps that’s because there is no engagement with the character, only a voyeurism in reading about him. I just read that Tom McCarthy is apparently an artist fiddling with books, so perhaps that’s why – I get the same empty feeling with most conceptual art.
Short Term Memory Loss does a proper review of Remainder. [Update:] So does Ready Steady Book and indeed, The Midnight Bell. TMB points out that the Brit Lit Blogs have been all over Remainder like a rash, and wonders if it’s actually had any impact on the book’s profile. I was wondering that too, so I’ve just emailed the publisher and asked them.
RSB’s Mark Thwaite also did an excellent interview with Tom McCarthy too.
Reading around all of this, looking at TMB’s comments on Remainder, and Mark’s, and Short Term’s, makes me really happy. My review above isn’t really a review, because I can’t be bothered – frankly – to beat my brain to get the words out this time round. But what these other reviewers say about this book articulate much of what I feel already – and that, in itself, feels a bit special.