METRONOME PRESS, £6. ORDER (FREE P&P) ON 0870 079 8897
Remainder, by Tom McCarthy
An Everyman's life history doomed to repeat itself as farce
Monday 12 December 2005
A turning point comes in the bathroom at a party, when he notices a crack in the wall. This retrieves a memory of being in an old tenement block and looking at a similar crack; he could hear someone practising piano in an adjoining apartment and the odour of frying liver was wafting from below.
When and where this took place is a mystery, but the memory is so significant that he is driven to recreate the scene at vast expense, buying a block of flats in Brixton and hiring managers, designers and actors. Then he relives the memory repeatedly. Paradoxically, these repetitions come close to recapturing the unforced spontaneity of his life before the accident.
Soon he decides upon another re-enactment. This time he is in a garage getting a wheel mended when he is struck by the same uncanny sense. He recreates the garage using a hired warehouse. An inexorable mechanism is at work, and as he stages further re-enactments, their subject matter becomes violent.
Re-enactment has been a feature in recent art, most famously in Jeremy Deller's reprise of the Orgreave battle between striking miners and police. It is a art practice that readily invokes issues of trauma, nihilism and death. In fiction, it has been most prominent in the work of J G Ballard. As well as Ballard, McCarthy also draws upon influences including Huysmans, Bataille and Freud. Above all, his novel deals with the difficulty of relocating authenticity in everyday life.
Do not be deterred by Remainder's elevated associations, because it wears its high-art attire discreetly. McCarthy's prose is precise and unpretentious. His anti-hero is a sympathetic Everyman, and it is difficult to resist the dominion of his obsession. It has to be said that the title is not a positive portent for future sales, and Remainder might amount to no more than a cult. This would be unfortunate, because its minatory brilliance calls for classic status.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Top 20 misconceptions people believe are true
- 2 'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
- 3 Black Mass trailer: Johnny Depp might have started making good films again
- 4 Jacob Lescenski and Anthony Martinez: Straight student asks gay friend to High School prom and makes a million Twitter friends
- 5 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
MasterChef, TV review: The final climaxed in a frenzy of herbs and hyperbole
Everyday People project: Photographer Pablo Conejo placed an ad on Gumtree - and kickstarted a series of interesting encounters
Male student sues Columbia University for 'gender-based harassment' after alleged 'Mattress Performance' rape victim Emma Sulkowicz went public with claims
MasterChef 2015: Simon Wood named winner
Black Mass trailer: Johnny Depp might have started making good films again
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Katie Hopkins on LBC: Listen to caller taking The Sun columnist to task over migrant comments
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove