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Remainder [Paperback]

Tom McCarthy
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

13 Jun 2007
Traumatised 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 reconstructing more and more violent events, including hold-ups and shoot-outs. A darkly comic meditation on memory, identity and history, Remainder is a parable for modern times.

Product details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Alma Books; Paperback edition (13 Jun 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846880416
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846880414
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 377,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom McCarthy was born in 1969 and grew up in London. His creation, in 1999, of the International Necronautical Society (INS), a 'semi-fictitious organisation' that combines literature, art and philosophy, has led to publications, installations and exhibitions in galleries and museums around the world, from Tate Britain and the ICA in London to Moderna Museet in Stockholm and The Drawing Center in New York. Tom regularly writes on literature and art for publications including The New York Times, The London Review of Books and Artforum.

Product Description


A splendidly odd novel... a refreshingly idiosyncratic, enjoyably intelligent read. --The Guardian

Remainder is an intelligent and absurd satire on consumer culture. --The Times

McCarthy's prose is precise and unpretentious. His anti-hero is a sympathetic Everyman, and it is difficult to resist the dominion of his obsession... its minatory brilliance calls for classic status. --The Independent

From the Publisher

Alma's Submission to The Booker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Atmoshere of the bizarre 11 Sep 2007
Tom McCarthy's Remainder occupies the same territory as Rupert Thompson's fascinating The Insult and is also reminiscent of the work of Paul Auster. A bizarre premise - in this case, a man left with no memory but an awful lot of money after an accident, who systematically seeks to re-enact actually experienced and/or imagined mundane scenarios - gradually comes to seem artlessly plausible, due to the absence of affect in both the writing and the central character. His abstruse quest for the real in the patently artificial operates as a nice critique of what Jean Baudrillard calls the hyper-real, yet also offers a fascinating parallel with the spiritual meditative practice of "being in the moment" through mindfulness. The book most reminded me of Sebastian Beaumont's Thirteen, the story of a taxi driver who reaches into his own psyche not by obsessively repeating minute actions but by quite literally driving himself into exhaustion. Beaumont's "other world" is less polemical, but more darkly fascinating and plot driven, than McCarthy's. Thirteen is a Remainder with go-faster stripes. The two books have a different feel, and attempt different things, but both come highly recommended.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most original de ja vu 19 July 2006
Have you ever had a feeling of de ja vu where you wished you could grab that moment, cling on to it and relish its every detail, but no matter how hard you try, it's gone?

The narrator of Tom McCarthy's brilliant `Remainder' feels false and unnatural after recovering from an accident that has left him having to relearn his motor functions and a compensation package of eight-and-a-half million pounds. One evening he is struck by a clear memory of a time he can't specify, which evokes a feeling calm and fluid reality in him. He decides to utilise his newfound wealth in an attempt to recreate that precise moment, complete with the perfect building (which he has designed to his specifications by a set designer) and the neighbours he was conscious of in this flash of recall (played by actors which the narrator calls `re-enactors'). He repeatedly re-enacts his moments in an attempt to regain the feeling he was aware of in that moment of de ja vu. Our hero becomes obsessed with re-enacting: first incidents in which he featured, then incidents he witnessed (where he takes on roles as a `re-enactor'), finally, he creates an event of his own design and, after many rehearsals, puts it into practice in the `real' world, with violent and disastrous consequences and, in a rather neat way, a resolution for the narrator.

McCarthy's protagonist is insane; but sympathetic, cold; yet human. The novel's climax has an almost anti-climactic calm that left me bewildered and satisfied. It was so easy to fall into the mindset of the hero, that I have found myself grasping at moments of de ja vu with a fresh vigour. It strikes me as a book about our perceptions of self, reality... and perhaps narrative.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Left me cold 21 Dec 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Had an interesting premise and started well but I really felt it failed to deliver by the end.

The main protagonist was neither engaging or likeable. This was by design and an important part of the story, but the trouble was the story wasn't really engaging either (and the writing style was pretty standard). So as the book went on and the original set-pieces failed to deliver anything meaningful, it just began to feel like a bit of a drag.

Not a terrible book by any means but it wasn't good enough for me to recommend it to anyone as a worthwhile read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Overated 9 Dec 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
After reading the reviews I was looking forward to an exceptional book. I was ver disappointed and actually gave up reading. I could not relate at all to the main character and his trivial and petty world just left me cold as did his friends. I thought that the conversation between him and his friends did not ring true and thought the whole story line so contrived and I interesting. Certainly not my cup of tea.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars See things differently 25 May 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have never read a book like this one. You cannot get it out of your head and it really does make you start to look at the world differently.

I read this on regular half-hour train journeys and, each time, when I arrived at the destination I didn't want to tear myself away from it. And when I did and finally stepped out into the Railway Station I viewed everyone in a completely different way and began seeing things previously unnoticed. No-one else around me seemed to be taking anything seriously - until I realised that everyone else was behaving normally and it was just me that had been reprogrammed. Another reviewer mentioned that the book `got under their skin' - it does just that. All of a sudden, every action, little task or movement takes on greater import.

The only disappointment was the ending, where the whole bizarreness just got to be a bit too much. But by that time the book had already altered my mind. It was too late for me.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Black cats resting on red roof tiles 6 Oct 2009
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This novel was greeted by so much hype from the critics that I was dismayed on reading it to find it was full of substance, colour, light and energy but with a profound vacancy at its heart. On an ordinary day and to an ordinary man a terrible accident occurs that robs him of most of his memory. Only fragments of it return, but he is compensated for the accident (about which he can remember nothing) to the tune of eight million pounds.

The protagonist, who has a flat, affectless, totally amoral personality, perhaps as a result of his accident, becomes obsessed with recreating, first of all, moments from his past, and secondly, with new moments. And these are, literally, moments: coming down a staircase and seeing an old woman moving a bag of rubbish; listening to someone playing a piano; looking out of a window and seeing some black cats resting on red roof tiles - their very banality and the intensity with which he experiences them are puzzling and seem to lead precisely nowhere. We learn nothing about his life prior to the accident and he seems to have no family and a few friends, who, in any case, soon abandon him or are abandoned by him.

But then he becomes interested in recreating moments that have happened since the accident - and one of them involves a bank heist, during which things get a little more interesting.

Looking for a clue in the title, I wondered if the writer was trying to suggest something about the philosophical problem of memory itself, since any memory is changed by the act of remembering. He is trying to recreate himself by repeating images that in some way moved him or made him feel safe or contented, but he's doomed from the start, since what remains from repeating an action is a faraway echo of the original feelings.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought as a gift
I have not read this so that I can't say that I love it, but it was delivered promptly and in good condition.
Published 5 months ago by Maa
2.0 out of 5 stars I only read this for my English literature course
The book arrived before the estimated delivery date, and there were no problems with the seller: but personally I hated this book - it was repetitive and pretentious. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Pen Name
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book.
An excellent story, one which is out of the ordinary and subtly insightful. Utterly relevant to 'modern' life and written in such a way that at no point does it feel tiresome.
Published 13 months ago by P Lyle-smythe
5.0 out of 5 stars Play it again, Tom...
Firstly, a word of warning. I loved this novel, and thought it the best new writing I'd encountered in quite some time. You may well hate it, for exactly the same reasons. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Dr. Kenneth W. Douglas
4.0 out of 5 stars For what purpose indeed?
I knew nothing about this book when I started it. The less you know about it the better. It's an unusual & original book - intriguing, interesting, readable, absorbing, compelling,... Read more
Published 17 months ago by nigeyb
4.0 out of 5 stars Maybe not for readers like me.......
This is a strange book. A man has an accident that seriously injures him. The accident required him to learn activities that he's previously taken for granted. Read more
Published on 28 Oct 2011 by J. Bowen
5.0 out of 5 stars Remainder
"Well f*** off: it's the same book as it was two years ago." Was Tom ("the most galling interviewee in the world") McCarthy's response to the myriad publishers clamouring to... Read more
Published on 6 May 2011 by TomCat
4.0 out of 5 stars Depends how you read it
Judging by most of the reviews that have already been written for 'Remainder', it seems to be a simple case of you get it or you don't get it, you like it or you don't like it. Read more
Published on 17 April 2011 by tombcandle13
3.0 out of 5 stars Promises more than it delivers
This first-person account starts intriguingly enough, and draws you in well enough that the first third or half of the book is a page turner. Read more
Published on 16 Dec 2010 by E. D. Costello
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much of a re-creation
The author uses a lot of oxygen in interviews to hype his anti-traditional, pro-avant garde, bourgeois-bashing stance, but in many ways, Remainder (written by a novelist with a... Read more
Published on 11 Nov 2010 by annwiddecombe
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