Register Tuesday | April 16 | 2024

Another Reason Not to Do Speed

A "poolside" interview with Tom McCarthy

Tom McCarthy’s debut novel Remainder has had a jump-start trajectory. Rejected by all the mainstream publishers, it was picked up for a successful yet limited run by petite French publisher Metronome Press in 2005. Remainder was re-released finally in the UK a year later to critical acclaim across the blogosphere and in top-notch publications such as the Independent, the New York Times and London Review of Books. It is now on the bestsellers list in the US, where it has been published by Vintage. The strangely cool and beautiful story follows a newly-moneyed man tackling post-traumatic stress through reenactments of real-life events. It is now undergoing big-screen treatment by Film Four.

Aside from being one of the UK's most exciting new authors, McCarthy is also known for the reports and media interventions he has made as General Secretary of the International Necronautical Society (INS). The avant-garde society, which McCarthy described in an interview with lit site Ready Steady Book as, "an arena to act out the fictions of Kafka, Conrad, Burroughs—people like that," has done some crazy things, including breaking into the BBC News website and inserting "propaganda" into its source code. We are pleased to have McCarthy’s postcard fiction piece, "Hiatus," appear in our Poolside Fiction issue, and to report that the source code of this feature remains propaganda-free.

Maisonneuve Magazine: What would you do if you weren't a writer?
Tom McCarthy: I've always thought that being the guy that rides on the back of the Dodgem [bumper] cars has the best job ever.

MM: Which drugs are best for writing?
TM: I have to be totally straight to write. The dreamy ones are good for thinking though. The speedy ones are rubbish for writing—only good for making you think you're good.

MM: If you could put a soundtrack to your writing, who would compose it?
TM: Mark E. Smith.

MS: If your writing were made into a film, who would direct it?
TM: Remainder is being adapted, and I'm not allowed to say anything until it's all made public.

MM: Which writers do you emulate?
TM: Loads: Burroughs, Faulkner, Nabokov, Beckett, Mann, Hemingway, Updike, Robbe-Grillet . . . they're all in there, but hopefully you get your own thing going that moves beyond the influence.

MM: What's the one book that you're supposed to read but have never gotten through?
TM: Proust, À la recherche. It's got great passages, then gets really boring, then great again . . . then boring . . . I love it, but I've never read it through.

MM: What's the best way to kill a character?
TM: Violently and messily—or, going to the other extreme, off camera.

MM: On a scale of one to James Frey, how autobiographical is your work?
TM: Not very. I mean, it all comes from somewhere, and a portion of that is my life, but that's not interesting; what matters is where it all goes.

MM: Write a haiku about your latest work.
TM:     To describe a novel
               In seventeen syllables
               Is a diffic