Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review: Remainder by Tom McCarthy

Tom McCarthy
Published by Vintage
Publication date: February 13, 2007

The blurb on the back of the novel says "Remainder is about the secret world each of us harbors within, and what might happen if we were granted the power to make it real." I don't agree with that at all.

Remainder is about disassociation through repetition and control. It is about detail and obsession. Remainder is an infinite loop.

Let me tell you how this book made me feel, because that's all I can really say about it.  Reading Remainder was a chore.  I labored through it, all the while admiring the prose, the circular shape of it, wondering where the hell this thing was going.  And in the end it just sort of goes to it's own extreme.

I felt a sense of relief when it was over.  This was supposed to be some kind of great book, but why was it so hard to get through?  I felt like I wasn't getting something, that I wasn't smart enough to find the deeper meaning.

So I started to dwell on Remainder.  I read reviews and searched through blog posts.  I wrote notes to myself about what I imagined the themes were.   I thought about that movie with Michael Keaton - Multiplicity.  I asked my friends about it.  I read interviews with McCarthy that left me feeling even more confused.

Here's a sample of my scribbled notes:
Remainder is about repetition.  Again and again.  Each rehearsal more perfect than before.  He builds a perfectly controlled reality.  Matter in absolute form but without soul.  He has lost his soul. 
I tell you all this because the point is that I disliked reading the novel, but I very much enjoyed thinking about it afterwards.  I disliked the meal, but I loved the digestion and aftertaste.  It's been a very long time since a book has stuck with me so closely after I finished it.  I've written and re-written this review so many times and I kept feeling like I was missing my own point.  I can't dig deep enough to figure out how I really feel about it and so I'll keep turning it over in my head, feeling it's shape, probing for openings.  It feels good, really.

Rating: ?/10

Book source: purchased

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