Remainder: Remainder: Remainder



Tom McCarthy

Fiction, 308 pages

Mr. McCarthy asks: What is authentic? How do we find authenticity? How do we slow down life—even repeat scenes from our lives, sometimes at half speed, in order to observe and notice—not just see and pass by.

I laughed out loud a lot while reading this book. It’s not slapstick funny. Maybe it’s closer to absurd theater. You watch a man create and recreate scenes from his life. It gets pretty ridiculous. There are models of models of recreated models. McCarthy is often focused on layers of life, slicing away like an archeologist, exposing our modern tendencies. He slices away at our technology in C and does the same in Satin island: what are we, these people+machine creatures?

I’m reminded of Mohsin Hamid’s debut novel, Moth Smoke, where we see a bank worker slowly devolve into a drug addict, and, possibly, commit a terrible crime. McCarthy’s main character goes through a similar transformation.

I’m not sure I buy the ending of Remainder (Satin Island and C have very strong endings). But, I think that’s part of what makes this novel unique: it borders on absurdism and backs off over and over. This isn’t allegory. Maybe it’s comedic in the traditional sense: completion, union, and rebirth are found, even if these are oddly twisted forms.

Also, there are a ton of colons. I didn’t count, but I’d guess somewhere around 700 in the novel. I don’t know what that means. Perhaps the reader pauses and reflects back over and over, at the syntactic level, as McCarthy’s protagonist reflects back?

Either way, I suggest you check out anything by McCarthy. His novels are quirky and I’m pretty sure he’s a genius.