by Tom McCarthy


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Traumatized by an accident which 'involved something falling from the sky' and leaves him eight and a half million pounds richer but hopelessly estranged from the world around him, Remainder's hero spends his time and money obsessively reconstructing and re-enacting vaguely remembered scenes and situations from his past: a large building with piano music in the distance, the familiar smells and sounds of liver frying and spluttering, lethargic cats lounging on roofs until they tumble off them... But when this fails to quench his thirst for authenticity, he starts re-enacting more and more violent events, as his repetition addiction spirals out of control.

A darkly comic meditation on memory, identity and history, Remainder is a parable for modern times.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307278357
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/13/2007
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 424,882
Product dimensions: 5.17(w) x 7.97(h) x 0.63(d)

About the Author

Known in the art world for the reports, manifestos and media interventions he has made as General Secretary of the International Necronautical Society (INS), a semi-fictitious avant-garde network, Tom McCarthy is the author of four novels: Remainder, Men in Space, C and Satin Island. The last two were shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. In 2013 he was awarded the inaugural Windham Campbell Prize for Fiction.

Read an Excerpt


about the accident itself I can say very little. Almost nothing. It involved something falling from the sky. Technology. Parts, bits. That’s it, really: all I can divulge. Not much, I know.

It’s not that I’m being shy. It’s just that—well, for one, I don’t even remember the event. It’s a blank: a white slate, a black hole. I have vague images, half-impressions: of being, or having been—or, more precisely, being about to be—hit; blue light; railings; lights of other colours; being held above some kind of tray or bed. But who’s to say that these are genuine memories? Who’s to say my traumatized mind didn’t just make them up, or pull them out from somewhere else, some other slot, and stick them there to plug the gap—the crater—that the accident had blown? Minds are versatile and wily things. Real chancers.

And then there’s the Requirement. The Clause. The terms of the Settlement drawn up between my lawyer and the parties, institutions, organizations—let’s call them the bodies—responsible for what happened to me prohibit me from discussing, in any public or recordable format (I know this bit by heart), the nature and/or details of the incident, on pain of forfeiting all financial reparations made to me, plus any surplus these might have accrued (a good word that, “accrued”) while in my custody—and forfeiting quite possibly, my lawyer told me in a solemn voice, a whole lot more besides. Closing the loop, so to speak.

The Settlement. That word: Settlement. Set-l-ment. As I lay abject, supine, tractioned and trussed up, all sorts of tubes and wires pumping one thing into my body and sucking another out, electronic metronomes and bellows making this speed up and that slow down, their beeping and rasping playing me, running through my useless flesh and organs like sea water through a sponge—during the months I spent in hospital, this word planted itself in me and grew. Settlement. It wormed its way into my coma: Greg must have talked about it to me when he came round to gawk at what the accident had left. As the no-space of complete oblivion stretched and contracted itself into gritty shapes and scenes in my unconscious head—sports stadiums mainly, running tracks and cricket pitches—over which a commentator’s voice was playing, inviting me to commentate along with him, the word entered the commentary: we’d discuss the Settlement, though neither of us knew what it entailed. Weeks later, after I’d emerged from coma, come off the drip-feed and been put onto mushy solids, I’d think of the word’s middle bit, the -l-, each time I tried to swallow. The Settlement made me gag before it gagged me: that’s for sure.

Later still, during the weeks I sat in bed able to think and talk but not yet to remember anything about myself, the Settlement was held up to me as a future strong enough to counterbalance my no-past, a moment that would make me better, whole, complete. When most of my past had eventually returned, in instalments, like back episodes of some mundane soap opera, but I still couldn’t walk, the nurses said the Settlement would put me back on my feet. Marc Daubenay would visit and brief me about our progress towards Settlement while I sat in plaster waiting for my bones to set. After he’d left I’d sit and think of sets—six games in tennis or how- ever many matching cups and plates, the scenery in theatres, patterns. I’d think of remote settlements in ancient times, village outposts crouching beneath hostile skies. I’d think of people—dancers, maybe, or soldiers—crouching, set, waiting for some event to start.

Later, much later, the Settlement came through. I’d been out of hospital for four months, out of physiotherapy for one. I was living on my own on the edge of Brixton, in a one-bedroom flat. I wasn’t working. The company I’d been with up until the accident, a market-research outfit, had said they’d give me paid sick leave until May. It was April. I didn’t feel like going back to work. I didn’t feel like doing anything. I wasn’t doing anything. I passed my days in the most routine of activities: getting up and washing, walking to the shops and back again, reading the papers, sitting in my flat. Sometimes I watched TV, but not much; even that seemed too proactive. Occasionally I’d take the tube up to Angel, to Marc Daubenay’s office. Mostly I just sat in my flat, doing nothing. I was thirty years old.

On the day the Settlement came through, I did have something to do: I had to go and meet a friend at Heathrow Airport. An old friend. She was flying in from Africa. I was just about to leave my flat when the phone rang. It was Daubenay’s secretary. I picked the phone up and her voice said:

“Olanger and Daubenay. Marc Daubenay’s office. Putting you through.”

“Sorry?” I said.

“Putting you through,” she said again.

I remember feeling dizzy. Things I don’t understand make me feel dizzy. I’ve learnt to do things slowly since the accident, understanding every move, each part of what I’m doing. I didn’t choose to do things like this: it’s the only way I can do them. If I don’t understand words, I have one of my staff look them up. That day back in April when Daubenay’s secretary phoned, I didn’t have staff, and anyway they wouldn’t have helped in that instance. I didn’t know who the you was she was putting through—Daubenay or me. A trivial distinction, you might say, but the uncertainty still made me dizzy. I placed my hand against my living-room wall.

Daubenay’s voice came on the line after a few seconds:

“Hello?” it said.

“Hello,” I said back.

“It’s come through,” said Daubenay.

“Yes, it’s me,” I answered. “That was just your secretary putting us through. Now it’s me.”

“Listen,” said Daubenay. His voice was excited; he hadn’t taken in what I’d just said. “Listen: they’ve capitulated.”

“Who?” I asked.

“Who? Them! The other side. They’ve caved in.”

“Oh,” I said. I stood there with my hand against the wall. The wall was yellow, I remember.

“They’ve approached us,” Daubenay continued, “with a deal whose terms are very strong each way.”

“What are the terms?” I asked.

“For your part,” he told me, “you can’t discuss the accident in any public arena or in any recordable format. To all intents and purposes, you must forget it ever happened.”

“I’ve already forgotten,” I said. “I never had any memory of it in the first place.”

This was true, as I mentioned earlier. The last clear memory I have is of being buffeted by wind twenty or so minutes before I was hit.

“They don’t care about that,” Daubenay said. “That’s not what they mean. What they mean is that you must accept that, in law, it ceases to be actionable.”

I thought about that for a while until I understood it. Then I asked him:

“How much are they paying me?”

“Eight and a half million,” Daubenay said.

“Pounds?” I asked.

“Pounds,” Daubenay repeated. “Eight and a half million pounds.”

It took another second or so for me to take in just how much money that was. When I had, I took my hand off the wall and turned suddenly around, towards the window. The movement was so forceful that it pulled the phone wire with it, yanked it right out of the wall. The whole connection came out: the wire, the flat-headed bit that you plug in and the casing of the hole that that plugs into too. It even brought some of the internal wiring that runs through the wall out with it, all dotted and flecked with crumbly, fleshy bits of plaster.

“Hello?” I said.

It was no good: the connection had been cut. I stood there for some time, I don’t know how long, holding the dead receiver in my hand and looking down at what the wall had spilt. It looked kind of disgusting, like something that’s come out of something.

The horn of a passing car made me snap to. I left my flat and hurried down to a phone box to call Marc Daubenay back. The nearest one was just round the corner, on Coldharbour Lane. As I crossed my road and walked down the one lying perpendicular to it, I thought about the sum: eight and a half million. I pictured it in my mind, its shape. The eight was perfect, neat: a curved figure infinitely turning back into itself. But then the half. Why had they added the half? It seemed to me so messy, this half: a leftover fragment, a shard of detritus. When my knee-cap had set after being shattered in the accident, one tiny splinter had stayed loose. The doctors hadn’t managed to fish it out, so it just floated around beside the ball, redundant, surplus to requirements; sometimes it got jammed between the ball and its socket and messed up the whole joint, locking it, inflaming nerves and muscles. I remember picturing the sum’s leftover fraction, the half, as I walked down the street that day, picturing it as the splinter in my knee, and frowning, thinking: Eight alone would have been better.

Other than that, I felt neutral. I’d been told the Settlement would put me back together, kick-start my new life, but I didn’t feel any different, fundamentally, from when before Marc Daubenay’s secretary had phoned. I looked around me at the sky: it was neutral too—a neutral spring day, sunny but not bright, neither cold nor warm. I passed my Fiesta, which was parked halfway down the street, and looked at its dented left rear side. Someone had crashed into me in Peckham and then driven off, a month or so before the accident. I’d meant to get it fixed, but since coming out of hospital it had seemed irrelevant, like most other things, so the bodywork behind its left rear wheel had stayed dented and crinkled.

At the end of the road perpendicular to mine I turned right, crossing the street. Beside me was a house that, ten or so months previously, two months before the accident, the police had swooped on with a firearms team. They’d been looking for someone and had got a tip-off, I suppose. They’d laid siege to this house, cordoning off the road on either side while marksmen stood in bullet-proof vests behind vans and lampposts, pointing rifles at the windows. It was as I passed across the stretch of road they’d made into a no man’s land for that short while that I realized that I didn’t have Marc Daubenay’s number on me.

I stopped right in the middle of the road. There was no traffic. Before heading back towards my flat to get the number I paused for a while, I don’t know how long, and stood in what had been the marksmen’s sightlines. I turned the palms of my hands outwards, closed my eyes and thought about that memory of just before the accident, being buffeted by wind. Remembering it sent a tingling from the top of my legs to my shoulders and right up into my neck. It lasted for just a moment—but while it did I felt not-neutral. I felt different, intense: both intense and serene at the same time. I remember feeling this way very well: standing there, passive, with my palms turned outwards, feeling intense and serene.

Reading Group Guide

“A stunningly strange book about the rarest of fictional subjects, happiness.”
—Jonathan Lethem, author of The Fortress of Solitude

The introduction, discussion questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Remainder, Tom McCarthy’s brilliant and unsettling first novel. In this mesmerizing and quietly shocking debut, Tom McCarthy takes as his premise an event everyone has dreamed of—sudden and spectacular wealth—and develops it in ways that are both marvelously inventive and deeply disturbing.

1. Why might McCarthy have chosen the word “remainder” for his title? What particular resonance does the word have in the context of the novel’s themes of repetition, re-enactment, and things left over?

2. In the second paragraph of Remainder, the narrator remarks that “Minds are versatile and wily things. Real chancers” [p. 3]. In what ways does the novel demonstrate the truth of this statement?

3. In what ways is Remainder an unconventional, shocking, and troubling novel? What expectations does it either frustrate or satisfy in unexpected ways?

4. “No Doing without Understanding: the accident bequeathed me that for ever, an eternal detour” [pp. 22–23]. Why does the narrator find this condition so intolerable?

5. In order to create the authentic experience he craves, the narrator realizes that he’d “have to buy a whole building, and fill it with people who’d behave just as I told them to” [p. 69]. How does the use of the artifice and a controlled environment create a feeling of naturalness? What does that paradox reveal?

6. The mysterious “councillor” who appears late in the novel asks what purpose the narrator’s elaborate re-enactments serve—are they art, or perhaps a kind of magic, or shamanic performances? Dr. Trevellian suggests that the narrator is seeking a condition that will generate the mind’s own opiates. The narrator himself believes that he is trying to feel more “real” [pp. 237–240]. Which of these explanations seems most convincing? Are there other ways of understanding the narrator’s bizarre obsessions?

7. In what ways does the narrator’s obsession with controlling time—reliving the past, creating a self-contained world where he can act as a god over people and events—reflect desires that, to one degree or another, most people feel? Is the need to control an inherent part of the human condition?

8. Remainder is a realistic novel and yet it describes actions that seem impossible. How does McCarthy manage to make the more fantastic elements of the novel believable?

9. How does the relationship between the narrator and Naz change over the course of the novel? Why does Naz end up in a catatonic state?

10. The narrator thinks of the man gunned down on Belinda Road, “he’d done what I wanted to do: merged with the space around him, sunk and flowed into it until there was no distance between it and him—and merged, too, with his actions, merged to the extent of having no more consciousness of them. He’d stopped being separate, removed, imperfect. Cut out the detour” [pp. 197–198]. Why does the narrator find this “merging” so fascinating? To what extent is this a universal desire?

11. The phrase “Everything must leave some kind of mark” is repeated several times throughout the novel. What is the significance of this statement?

12. The narrator kills Robber Re-enactor Two, he says, “because I wanted to,” and is fascinated by the blood coming from the body: “Wow, look at it. It’s just a . . . thing. A patch. A little bit repeating. . . . Isn’t it beautiful?” [pp. 299–300]. Why isn’t he able to feel any empathy for the man he has just killed? Is the narrator himself, by the end of the novel, beyond the reader’s empathy?

13. The novel ends with the narrator forcing the pilot to keep flying back and forth, creating vapor trail that describes a figure eight in the sky and achieving a state approximating pure stasis. Why does this give the narrator such pleasure? How is this flight likely to end? With a deadly crash or a return to land and incarceration?

14. Can Remainder be read as a kind of parable of the human condition? If so, how?

15. The International Necronautical Society, a semi-fictitious avant-garde network for which Tom McCarthy serves as General Secretary, declares on its Web site ( that the origins of art “lie in transgression, death and sacrifice.” In what ways does Remainder explore “transgression, death and sacrifice”?

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Remainder 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What I find interesting is that the two most recent 'reviews' of this title were written by individuals who either a) skimmed the last few chapters or b) did not finish reading the novel (and I suppose one might argue that one who skims is not really reading, at least not for meaning). Yet both readers still felt informed enough to write a 'review.' Maybe I should take this up with Barnes and Noble for calling these comments 'reviews' when really, they're user reactions. But about the book. McCarthy's prose is fluid (much like the cover image), and the bulk of the novel isn't so much plot-driven (though events do escalate in a somewhat thriller-esque way) as reflective and almost philosophical. The book, for me, called to mind Baudrillard's concept of hyperreality and, separately, the extent to which our mental space mirrors reality. It's a fantastic novel, especially for someone who eschews conventional narrative (though McCarthy breaks none of the 'rules' of realism).
Guest More than 1 year ago
A strange, intriguing premise, but wholeheartedly empty. It's full of vivid detail 'sometimes too much' but the biggest concerns in the story are left unrevealed. The writing is well enough, but I wouldn't describe it as 'fluid.' So much more could have been done with such original thoughts!
JanetinLondon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought this was a very good book. It¿s about memory, reality, authenticity.The story is told in the first person by someone whose name we never learn. He has had some sort of freak accident involving something falling on him from the sky ¿ we never learn what. He has apparently recovered, but is left with little memory and with the need, at first, to think through physical actions (such as walking) before he can take them. This makes him feel distanced, unreal, inauthentic. At a party, a crack in a wall triggers a memory of a block of flats where he may have lived, including details of various neighbors and specific events. He desperately wants to grab hold of this memory and make it real. Luckily, he has received a huge settlement ¿ eight and a half million pounds ¿ from whoever or whatever caused his accident (again, we don¿t know). He searches methodically until he finds a building that fits the memory. He buys it and fills it with ¿re-enactors¿ to perform the fragmented sequences of his memory over and over again, absolutely identically each time. At this point, it feels like the book will be about reconstruction ¿ will he move on and remember more of his life? Will it help him feel more ¿real¿? But it goes in a somewhat different direction. The protagonist then decides to re-enact a series of other events ¿ first one he experiences personally, then one he sees the aftermath of, then one he just hears about, and finally one which hasn¿t happened at all. His search for authenticity is moving further and further from his own memory and experience. And each event he reconstructs is more physically violent than the previous one.It¿s clear throughout that he is unbalanced, obsessive, and it only gets worse. He is happy when watching his reconstructions, knowing exactly what is going to happen, examining them from every angle. But he deals less and less well with real reality. He has no idea how difficult he is being with the re-enactors, making them ¿perform¿ over and over for hours on end, even when he isn¿t there. He doesn¿t realize how difficult his demands on his ¿facilitator¿, Naz, are becoming. He starts to ¿zone out¿ occasionally, falling into trances.At this point, I started to think about how it could end ¿ there were various possibilities, I thought, probably involving reactions by the ¿normal¿ characters, such as Naz, who would surely eventually rebel, causing some sort of crisis. But I was wrong again. What shapes the final events is not a human response, but a tiny difference between planned perfection and actual reality. The author planned and executed this perfectly. I won¿t spoil things by going further, but just to say I was completely surprised by the ending, but also saw immediately how perfect it was.There were a lot of other things going on here, I know ¿ the narrator¿s recurring belief that he can smell cordite, his desire to hold single moments for as long as possible, his obsession with leftover bits and pieces (¿remainders¿), and the background of casual violence. I¿m sure I¿ve missed the significance of quite of lot of it. But the bottom line is that I liked this book a lot. It was easy to read, compelling in its construction of the narrator¿s increasingly obsessed search for ¿authentic moments¿, and a really interesting story, both on the surface and on deeper levels.
mikestocks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I played a small editorial part in bringing this book out. It won't appeal to everyone -- it's too distinct for that -- but I think it's superb and should have made the Booker long list at the very least...
blackhornet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This might appeal to those who like Magnus Mills' books. I don't.
heff100 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A deeply unsettling, compulsive read, which carried on worming its way inside me when I had to tear myself away from it. At the end I felt residual feelings of unease, disquiet and well admiration. Or is that recidual? I would say this is one to reread even if I didn't feel it was all part of some masterplan to mess with my head.
coolmama on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
HATED this book.An unnamed narrator has just received 8.5 million pounds for being a victim of an "item falling from the sky" and has no idea or desires as what to do with it.One day, while attending a party, he sees a crack in the wall which brings back a deja vu scenario which he feels he must replicate.This leads him to re-enact other unusual events which gets him more and more in "touch" with reality.He clearly suffers from some sort of brain damage since the accident; but the book just goes on and on and on and on and on with minute descriptions of these re-enactments and not much else.I was unable to see the brilliance in this book, or the art of its writing, or the paen to existentialism .Boring, boring, and boring.
ben_h on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Remainder's narrator, victim of some unspecified accident, awakens from a coma and must relearn even the most basic skills¿walking, speaking, eating¿as if from scratch. Even out of the hospital, he still feels strangely detached from his own body. Everything seems difficult, and somehow unsatisfying. On the plus side, he's rich, thanks to a settlement from the accident. Bothered by memories of living in a certain apartment which he's never actually seen, he begins to finance a series of re-creations, using sets and actors to bring to life the scenes in his vision. As this obsessive quest consumes him, his increasingly elaborate productions bring things closer and closer to some sort of breaking point.The longing for "authenticity" is a common symptom of life in this post-modern world. Remainder plays off that desire, leaving us both appalled at the narrator's actions and yet also sympathetic to him. Don't we all secretly hope that if we could only observe things closely enough, break them down into sufficiently exclusive categories, that some sort of Truth will emerge? Doesn't the latest multi-hyphenated musical genre invented by a Pitchfork reviewer hope to touch something Real? The great mythical structures intended to comfort us--God, the State, Love--have been dissolved, leaving us in a world of simple, terrifying matter. We live in constant anxiety, observing and judging ourselves from moment to moment; our minds provide a running commentary on our performance.Remainder's protagonist becomes obsessed with a murder victim, because he feels that in "dying beside the bollards on the tarmac he¿d done what I wanted to do: merged with the space around him, sunk and flowed into it until there was no distance between it and him¿and merged, too, with his actions, merged to the extent of having no more consciousness of them. He¿d stopped being separate, removed, imperfect. Cut out the detour."The internal critic, the ironic observer, is finally¿irrevocably¿silenced. This is the longing for authenticity at its most self-destructive. And, turned on the practice of fiction, it is the feeling that all storytelling is ultimately deceptive. Fiction, like our protagonist, can only imperfectly re-create. The realist novel, then, is exposed as a fraud: it can never actually reveal the truth it promises. McCarthy, having acknowledged the lie, can be read as asking us: what now?
madcurrin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm still mulling over 'Remainder'. It's like watching a film that you know is significant but you can't quite articulate why. It features the strangest, most obsessive narrator I have come across in a long time. After a traumatic accident a man attempts to capture and preserve mundane moments of life in order to reconnect with the sensation of living. He does so via a series of increasingly elaborate re-enactments. Enjoyable as it is, the attention to detail can be ponderous, at least initially, and for this reason it's not a novel that I am likely to return to in a hurry. But the peculiar trajectory of the book is marvelous and compelling. An imperfect book that is still rattling round in my head. So, four stars for its contrary infectiousness.
shadowofthewind on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was a big disappointment. After suffering a horrible accident, the main character must learn how to move all over again. He must learn how to use his body, how to walk. After watching a movie with his friends, it occurs to him that all of his movements feel fake. Robert Deniro in the movie was not fake, he was smooth natural. He wants to feel that way. In order to accomplish this, he decides to re-enact memories of his life at a time where he felt real. He can make a perfect re-enactment from the most mundane of memories. He accomplishes this through his settlement from the accident (8million pounds). He buys an entire apartment building, hires actors, and creates smells and sounds just so he can feel that moment of "realness". Even though it isn't real. It seemed like this books was going somewhere by the concept. It didn't. He just kept re-enacting everything he saw, to the point that something very bad happens. Nothing is really resolved and there is no real epiphany here. Just a good idea, that falls flat.
bwdiederich on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Still conflicted about this book. It started out so promising but built to a sadly predictable end. The writing was great and there were wonderful moments throughout, but overall I was sadly unimpressed.
ladydzura on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Remainder is easily one of the strangest books I've ever read. Our unnamed protagonist has been the victim of some sort of accident -- his £8.5 million settlement prevents him from sharing the details with us, but we do learn that it involves something falling from the sky -- and he's still missing months worth of memories. At a party one evening, he becomes enraptured with a crack in the wall of his friend's bathroom as memories start to flood his mind. With his newfound wealth, he sets out to re-create these memories: he buys and renovates a building to his memory's exact specifications, and hires people to help him re-create his interactions with them. They are to act specifically as he tells them and to be on-call constantly, so he may indulge himself in these recreations whenever he would like. He obsesses over the details: the shine of the wood floors, the smells wafting from the flat below, the exact position of the sunlight on the floor. Then, he takes it a step further: he sets out to continuously re-enact an encounter he has with three young boys at a tire shop, and then becomes involved with doing the same for a shooting just outside of his flat. And then everything begins to spiral out of control, leading up to one very odd ending.I have to admit: about three-quarters of the way through this book, I wanted to throw it across the room. A couple of hours (and a nap) later, I was back at it again, wanting to know how it was all going to turn out. I found myself getting as wrapped up as the protagonist himself, and I could only watch as what started out as a whim ('why not re-create this? I have the money, let's do it!') turned into an obsession. Maybe that's why I felt the ending was such a letdown: there's so much buildup and you spend so much time thinking about this strange man and his strange needs and then poof! it's over. That's it? And again with the urge to chuck it against the wall. A crazy, crazy book.
wdlaurie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting concept, but flailed in execution.
Isgodchekhov on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The tyranny of matter¿There that¿s my summary of this debut novel by Tom McCarthy.You know its really refreshing, think about how many novels are thematically concerned with the tyranny of time¿He already had established his avant-garde credentials as the founding member of the International Necronautical Society, where one of its axioms is: Death, is viewed by the INS as ¿a cipher for the outer limit of description, for the point at which the code breaks down¿. The society explores the relationships between representation (in the artistic usage) and death.Where to begin¿. There is the narrator hero of no name, who could be referred to as the Enactor, who surrounds himself with re-enactors, who also have no names with the notable exception of the head Re-enactor, or facilitator, Nazrul Ram Vyas, Naz for short. This will be explained forthwith¿Lets see, the plot structure is chronologically straight forward. The prose has a captivating, unassuming pulse, is invested with its own logic, and pace is brisk.Our hero has experienced brain trauma, an accident involving some ¿bits¿ falling down from the sky. The first section is not so strange as we learn the nature and extent of his injury and the current state of his consciousness: that he is specifically amnesiac about the accident. But this works in his favor, as evidently this accident had a non-natural cause, and he receives a mysterious settlement of 8 ½ million pounds sterling. What is not in his favor, and which starts the novel¿s own system of phenomenology, is that his primary motor functions have to be re-routed. He has to `learn how to eat a carrot¿ by consciously thinking about every movement involved. As he gradually regains a semblance of normal life, and in the course of relearning, he develops an amazing ability to deconstruct: actions and events, the relation of objects in space.He also comes to a conclusion that he has become, or at least his actions have become, ¿inauthentic¿ faked. He learns to equate a `real¿ action as an act devoid of self-consciousness of the act itself, of any self cognition of the act. While in a bathroom at a friend¿s party, staring at a crack in the wall triggers an apparent mimetic-connected vision. These episodes of altered consciousness, manifest themselves in a bathtub or bathrooms. He has a sensation of a part memory, part vision, where he perceives a connectedness, a sense of being ¿authentic¿. His profound epiphany sets him off on a quest to reproduce the setting, along with a sequence of actions by various tenants in this vision, the entire high rise apartment complex, along with the neighboring building, and the particular peculiar tenants that formed the component parts, in his `vision-episode¿.In a mostly tongue in cheek and sardonic tone, its narrative is filled with metaphors of technology, especially telecommunications. It foregoes any interiority other than the narrator-as-commentator on his own discoveries, and the conclusions he draws from the series of successive replications. We go from one re-enactment, and all its logistics to another, but each time there is an associated revelation, sometimes in mid re-enactment, so that the novel¿s processes are self aware, and has its own logic. The narrator examines the ¿residual¿, what he has figuratively distilled from each series of enactments. This `remainder¿ has both spatial and temporal connotations: a conclusion drawn, a residual of an event after the ¿surplus¿ matter (or time) is removed, or an actual physical residue. Each replication leads him to a new state of self awareness, advancing him closer to his quest for authenticity and subsequent moments of increasing ¿enlightenment¿ that his super-facilitators can make come to fruition. But what becomes troubling is that his visions are accompanied by an intensely pleasant physical sensation of tingling. They become an addiction, much like those that excersise to the point of enjoying their body¿s own endorphin¿s. Boundaries
ACGalaga on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There are times where I have flashbacks of scenes from this novel.
jintster on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a very difficult book to review - it's very quirky and original. Following an undescribed accident our unnamed hero get a huge pay off from those responsible. He becomes obsessed with authenticity and staging reenactments. Quite a few reviewers thought this book a work of genius. About half way through, I thought they might be right but ultimately this felt somehow hollow, inauthentic even. As our hero ramps thinks up, it becomes difficult to suspend disbelief. Good prose style though and full marks for trying something different.
omphalos02 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very odd and affecting story told with sharp, precise prose. After suffering from an accident and being awarded a huge settlement, a man proceeds to act (or re-enact) in some very strange ways. I found myself looking at my surroundings differently as a result of reading this. The plot seems to fold into itself like a complicated modular origami model. Very weird and wonderful reading.
Suso711 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Unsettling, for sure! It was a page turner. I truly couldn't resist reading to see what the crazy guy would do next. But the cover says it's a book about happiness? It seemed misleading to me. It's not about happiness as most people would see it - or find it. I was glad when it was finally over.
cdogzilla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At first I thought, "somewhere between Ballard and Amis," but I gradually realized there wasn't much if any Amis influence after all -- none of the really dry, sardonic wit. I settled on mostly Ballard and a bit of Nicholson Baker, but not much. I'll have to think about this one a bit more, which is good, it'll stick with me, I suspect in much the same way Luke Rhinehart's "The Dice Man" has. Cautiously recommended.
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NookFanCO More than 1 year ago
The book contains such an original plot that it should be great. Unfortunately the build up to the last 50 pages drags on so much that it is almost painful. I found myself skipping to the last paragraph of each page to determine if anything significant had happened and moving on if the story was static. I would not have finished this book if I hadn't paid for it. I wonder how many people who checked it out from the library actually did finish. If you like repetition and patterns this book is for you. If not,...