Book Review: Tom McCarthy's Remainder / by Neal Auch

From time to time on social media I find myself rambling on about books, or visual art, or music, or whatever else happens to be a source of inspiration for me.  I've decided to start moving this content from my social media accounts over to my blog since, after all, my thoughts of this stuff constitutes a part of my creative process and it seems natural that they should find a home alongside my own artistic output.

Kicking off my new series of "Art & Inspiration" blog posts is Tom McCarthy's novel Remainder.  Hot holy fuck I don't have enough good things to say about this delightfully odd story of a millionaire amnesiac who becomes obsessed with reenacting various banal events from his past. There is an incredible formal accomplishment here in how McCarthy manages to keep the reader fully engaged in a narrative that is often repetitive and focussed on minutia. In the end I was reminded a bit of Don DeLillo -- specifically The Names and Mao II. While these works are stylistically very different, I think that both authors share an interest in charting the descent of a strange kind of conceptual art project into amorality and violence. But where DeLillo's writing tends to drift into poetry and come at these themes somewhat orthogonally, McCarthy's writing seems to plow towards its inevitable conclusion like a car crash. And the fucking ending of this book. I won't spoil it but goddamn that's some beautiful shit right there.  The final passage of this novel is ambiguous and open ended while, at the same time, providing a perfect and satisfying sense of closure to the story.  Incredible.