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Straight to the Multiplex

Tom McCarthy: Steven Hall’s ‘The Raw Shark Texts’

1 November 2007
The Raw Shark Texts 
by Steven Hall.
Canongate, 368 pp., £12.99, March 2007, 978 1 84195 902 3
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... Six years ago, at the First Committee Meeting of the International Necronautical Society, an organisation set up to explore ‘the cultural parameters of death’ – why not? – the INS’s Chief Obituary Reviewer (my sister Melissa) announced that she would be conducting a study of surfers, whom she ‘suspected were onto something’. Six months later, I and other INS committee members cross-examined ...

Stabbing the Olive

Tom McCarthy: Toussaint

11 February 2010
Running Away 
by Jean-Philippe Toussaint, translated by Matthew Smith.
Dalkey, 156 pp., $12.95, November 2009, 978 1 56478 567 1
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La Vérité sur Marie 
by Jean-Philippe Toussaint.
Minuit, 204 pp., €14.50, September 2009, 978 2 7073 2088 9
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... For any serious French writer who has come of age during the last 30 years, one question imposes itself above all others: what do you do after the nouveau roman? Alain Robbe-Grillet, Claude Simon et compagnie redrew the map of what fiction might offer and aspire to, what its ground rules should be – so much so that some have found their legacy stifling. Michel Houellebecq’s response has been one ...

Writing Machines

Tom McCarthy: On Realism and the Real

18 December 2014
... In the introduction​ to the 1995 reissue of his 1973 masterpiece Crash, J.G. Ballard discusses ‘the balance between fiction and reality’. ‘We live,’ he writes, in a world ruled by fictions of every kind – mass merchandising, advertising, politics conducted as a branch of advertising, the pre-empting of any original response to experience by the television screen. We live inside an enormous ...
18 June 2014
... How​ do you write after Ulysses? It isn’t just that Joyce writes better than anyone else (although he does), it’s the sense that Ulysses’s publication represents a kind of rapture for literature, an event that’s both ecstatic and catastrophic, perhaps even apocalyptic. A certain naive realism is no longer possible after it, and every alternative, every avant-garde manoeuvre imaginable has ...

Is there hope for U?

Christopher Tayler: Tom McCarthy

20 May 2015
Satin Island 
by Tom McCarthy.
Cape, 192 pp., £16.99, March 2015, 978 0 224 09019 3
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... that some of us were quite taken with didn’t always survive first contact with the actually existing literary world, in which editors were all too likely to pounce – as an editor does in TomMcCarthy’s novel Men in Space when a character slips talk of ‘the Western epistème’ into an art review – on instances of ‘pretentious bollocks’. After discovering Pierre Bourdieu, I even began to ...

Seeing Things Flat

Jenny Turner: Tom McCarthy’s ‘C’

9 September 2010

by Tom McCarthy.
Cape, 310 pp., £16.99, August 2010, 978 0 224 09020 9
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... quite makes clear the source of Sophie’s trouble: it’s veiled, confused, conflicted. As such questions so often are in life. ‘One of the real structural understandings of great literature,’ TomMcCarthy told the Believer in 2008, ‘is that it’s an event … this seismic set of ripples that goes on through time, backward and forward.’ And so, in place of interpretation, the novel ...
9 March 2006
Remainder 
by Tom McCarthy.
Metronome, 274 pp., £6, October 2005, 2 916262 00 8
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... on an elaborate pattern, but its central brilliance is trick-free: Paris, 1975, a particular building with cellars and garrets and stairways and salons and endless particular clutter. The narrator of TomMcCarthy’s Remainder has been given £8,500,000 to keep quiet about an accident that has befallen him. Something – ‘Technology. Parts, bits. That’s it really: all I can divulge. Not much, I ...

Hmmmm, Stylish

Brian Dillon: Claire-Louise Bennett

19 October 2016
Pond 
by Claire-Louise Bennett.
Fitzcarraldo, 177 pp., £10.99, October 2015, 978 1 910695 09 8
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... the sentences are more daring, by turns languid and styptic. If there is a modernism of sorts at work in current fiction in Ireland, it’s less a return, in the manner called for by writers such as TomMcCarthy, and more an acknowledgment of the variety of experimental traditions on which young writers now draw. For sure, there are aspects of Joyce and Beckett to be heard in Bennett’s fretful ...

Why am I so fucked up?

Christian Lorentzen: 37 Shades of Zadie

8 November 2012
NW 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 295 pp., £18.99, August 2012, 978 0 241 14414 5
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... Books and soon a column in Harper’s. Was she the second coming of Elizabeth Hardwick, or a kinder, gentler James Wood? In ‘Two Paths for the Novel’, she looked at books by Joseph O’Neill and TomMcCarthy. Realism, it seemed, was on the run, and it turned out that novels in English could still be vehicles for avant-garde ideas. Why not try to be James Joyce? A bit wobbly and lopsided by ...
1 September 1988
Citizen Cohn 
by Nicholas von Hoffman.
Harrap, 483 pp., £12.95, August 1988, 0 245 54605 7
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... than any other American. He did favours for them all, and they for him. Nicholas von Hoffman, a liberal news reporter who had been appalled by the young Roy Cohn who wreaked such havoc as Senator Joe McCarthy’s aide, has fallen into Cohn’s web, become entranced by him, and tries to get away with presenting him as a lovable rogue. Von Hoffman makes no attempt at sustained analysis: he is content to ...

Man-Eating Philosophers

Will Self: David Cronenberg

17 June 2015
Consumed 
by David Cronenberg.
Fourth Estate, 288 pp., £18.99, October 2014, 978 0 00 729915 7
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... Nathan is glossed thus: ‘Than, suggesting a thumb-sucking, asexual state of mind.’ I stress: this is not an ‘anti-style’ or the resistant Teflon-coated style of such Modernistes-nouveaux as TomMcCarthy and Michel Houellebecq; nor is it an attempt to demonstrate the semantic clumping we might expect once consciousness becomes fully technically mediated; rather it’s simply that ...

Her Body or the Sea

Ian Patterson: Ann Quin

21 June 2018
The Unmapped Country: Stories and Fragments 
by Ann Quin.
And Other Stories, 192 pp., £10, January 2018, 978 1 911508 14 4
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... attention, and there was a flurry of excitement about writing that departed in some way from the conventions of realism which still dominate the English novel. Heralded by commendatory quotes from TomMcCarthy and Lee Rourke on the cover of this new gathering of previously uncollected or unpublished writings, Ann Quin now seems to be emerging as their best ancestor. She has all the biographical ...

A Turn of Events

Frank Kermode

14 November 1996
Reality and Dreams 
by Muriel Spark.
Constable, 160 pp., £14.95, September 1996, 0 09 469670 5
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... woman’), and his daughter Cora, by a previous marriage, whom he likes much more. Although nearly all these characters are well-heeled, one of the book’s main themes is redundancy. Many people in Tom’s circle have become redundant, either because they have lost their jobs or because they simply are, as persons, superfluous; and now he himself is a redundant movie director. Film, however ...

Haddock blows his top

Christopher Tayler: Hergé’s Redemption

7 June 2012
Hergé: The Man who Created Tintin 
by Pierre Assouline, translated by Charles Ruas.
Oxford, 276 pp., £9.99, October 2011, 978 0 19 983727 4
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Hergé, Son of Tintin 
by Benoît Peeters, translated by Tina Kover.
Johns Hopkins, 394 pp., £15.50, November 2011, 978 1 4214 0454 7
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... each double-page spread. It also helps that Tintin himself, designed as a focus for identification, doesn’t have much of a personality beyond his narrative function as a goodie. And readers – as TomMcCarthy points out in Tintin and the Secret of Literature – have felt possessive towards the supporting cast from early on.* Captain Haddock, Tintin’s insult-hurling best friend, showed up in ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: Football and Currie

17 October 2002
... the English Premiership. The waves of cash that have rolled into the game since the deal with Sky in 1991 may not have fundamentally altered the character of the sport – a quarter of a century ago, Tom Stoppard was making a character in his play Professional Foul complain about the ‘yob ethics’ of the game – but they have made it worse. The players are richer, greedier and nastier, and almost ...

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