Remainder by Tom McCarthy
Remainder is a rare novel that is both seemingly simple and ultimately profound. In basic increments we hear the facts that build to something we couldn’t have imagined: In the accident something fell from the sky. Our protagonist knows nothing about what is was but a lawsuit has granted him 8 million pounds for damages. The London world he lives in passes before him like a dream with a few concrete images holding it in place—a phone booth, his car parked in a certain spot on the street, the plain couch and TV which hold him in the months of unemployment following the accident. His essential detachment from all that came before (a kind of exaggeration of our alienation) enable him to see the world as comprised of the building blocks of objects and strings of events in which objects move or are affected. In other words, narrative. The engine for the book becomes what he does with the money. There are no grand scale bacchanalias or missions to stop hunger and save the world as his various friends suggest. In fact there is little morality or pleasure in Remainder. What is there is cold observation, the accumulation of events and objects and the eerie remaking—via architects, set designers, builders-- of reality. Some may maintain that this remaking is in fact the making of art. I admire McCarthy’s chilly method but am left wondering what—aside from method and technique-- constitutes the making of art.