Msnowe's Blog

Summer Reading Reply, #1

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on August 13, 2009
m.snowe read Remainder, by Thomas McCarthy. If you liked Groundhog Day...

If you ever wanted to direct Groundhog Day...this might be your book.

So m.snowe came to this book knowing absolutely nothing about it, other than it was recommendedby this dude , and the cover is quite pleasing to the eyes.

m.snowe will be the first one to admit she doesn’t read much (enough?) contemporary fiction. Usually, she likes her authors d-e-a-d dead. This way, she can pick an author, and also start wherever she likes in terms of the canon–maybe read the most popular work, then dig through the earlier stuff, or vice versa, or something else entirely. But she took a chance on McCarthy and his first novel. And although McCarthy may not be dead, he seems to have a little fetish with it.

First, the best parts:

  • Humor.  Perhaps m.snowe’s favorite part of the book was when the protagonist nonchalantly asked that the cats which fell off the roof to their deaths be replaced with new cats as necessary. There was no attempt to make it so that the cats wouldn’t fall. The narrator had the ability to “waste cats,” so he did. Of course, this is an example of the dark humor that deepens as the book does. The affectlessness of the narrator was brilliant. And although his actions are within the scope of human possibility whenever someone has a focused vision and drive, and although something truly sinister is lurking behind the hilarity of the narrator’s actions, well, it’s still funny.
  • Definitions.  Don’t know entirely why, but the simple idea that the narrator received definitions from his coordinator via text message was also brilliant.
  • Perspective. m.snowe is very choosy and finicky when it comes to perspective, but this story just wouldn’t have been any good had it been told from anyone else’s vantage point. There, she said it.

Okay, here’s the problems m.snowe had with it:

  • Bland repetition. Yes, that’s a main point of the book. And this is merely an aesthetic comment—to each their own.  m.snowe happens to dislike things that rely on repetition (including Groundhog Day). But if you like it–all the better for you. Repeating, re-staging–these are important to the narrator, and help form the foundation of the book. Weirdly, the idea itself is more pleasing to m.snowe than actually reading it in a narrative.
  • Preachiness. It’s clear that McCarthy has an agenda. (Sure, sure,–all authors do). But his agenda, while not entirely clear (International Necronautical Society? Please.), is always present. Sometimes in some books (read: Orwell) it works.  Sometimes, you just want to enjoy the story and not feel the pressure of some idee fixe cramping your ability to languish within a plot. “Inhabiting a zone of conceptual death”? Goodness. I’m with their manifesto that “There is no beauty without death, its immanence.”  And m.snowe likes the idea, the obsession and seemingly crude love of death and “reality” and beauty that the narrator inhabits, but there must be some less obvious, more insightful way to get there than a narrator who is easily pegged as a post-traumatic psycho almost from the very beginning. What would hit closer to home (and be scarier) would be a character without some pinpoint-able trauma—a character who’s background is shockingly similar to the reader’s own.

It’s strange—m.snowe was all set to rip this book to shreds–while reading it, that’s all she wanted to do. Yet sitting here, with it finished and pleasantly dog-eared, it’s hard to formulate a really angry tirade against it. Trying to reevaluate the displeasure is, well, displeasing. So m.snowe gives you this advice: just go with it. It’ll be over and done with soon enough.

Onto the next recommendation–“The Untenable Featherweight of Existence”…Wait, no…this one.

Feminist Afterthought: McCarthy’s Fiction Lady-Rating: 3 out of 10 at best. Catherine, Annie, a Liver Lady and a woman with a bag on her head. All peripheral characters, and treated as such. Naz is, of course, male.