Remainder, by Tom McCarthy

Mission accomplished, deadline achieved. The draft's a disaster, but hey, it's a disaster with an ending, so at least there's something to revise, right? And since I'm not going to be a 16-year-old wunderkind (thanks for that one, Grendel), I'll just shoot for Ben Fountain status, which means I've got some time.

In the meantime, I have some reading to do. I was pretty excited about Remainder because I have one friend who loves it and is bff with the author (who's a bit of an odd duck, from what I can tell), and another friend who loathed it with every tasty oatbran fiber of her being. Exciting! Plus there's Zadie Smith's article on the two paths for the novel, one of which (Joseph O'Neill's Netherland) I wasn't crazy about, which begs the question of whether I'd have any interest in the other path. Add to that the extremely mixed reactions over at the Tournament of Books, which I always enjoy, and you've got to figure you're in for something unusual.

And it turns out "unusual" works pretty well as a descriptor here. This is definitely not a Workshop-friendly type of read--the characters are made out of the thinnest cardboard, with the main character nameless and the only other real person of interest described only in terms of the whirring of the gears in his brain. Our narrator has been struck down by some sort of airborne technological detritus, which has left him unable to remember how to do even the most basic things, but which has also left him with a giant cash settlement as long as he never tells anyone what happened. Not a hard deal to accept given that he can't remember anything in the first place. After a misleading blip where he seems to be trying to use the money for good (charity) or evil (hookers and blow), he settles on using it to recreate settings that interest him--first an apartment building filled with residents who do things like practice piano and cook liver, and then the scenes of accidents that happened nearby.

If this all sounds a bit plot-free, rest assured, it mostly is. It's also quite readable, which I wasn't really expecting but which was a pleasant surprise. With that said, though, while I enjoy a novel of ideas as much as the next girl, I'm not quite convinced that the ideas we're dealing with here elevated the book enough to make up for the fact that it's basically impossible to get invested in the characters (and thus the situation). And if you're someone who reads for the pleasure of getting to know the people in the book, you're probably going to want to throw the book at the wall. I look forward to hearing if anyone actually did.


16-year-old sells novel she wrote when she was 13

Read it and weep, bitches.

UPDATE: Vantage Press turns out to be a Vanity publisher, as pointed out by Gun in a comment. So she didn't sell her novel at all -- she bought it.


Warning--Impending Usurpation of Blog for Selfish Purposes

I'm finding myself a bit motivationally challenged of late, having blown through an arbitrarily-set May 31 deadline for finishing a draft of this stupid book I'm working on (props to E. McCracken for noting, years ago, that the terminology for one's first novel is anything but "novel" [i.e., "project," "giant thingy," etc.] but that the second is always "stupid f*%&ing novel"). I also haven't been reading much of note--lots of crappy mysteries, but I'm feeling behind in terms of the good stuff. That's where the usurpation of the blog comes in--I have a plan that perhaps you'll be able to help me with. I'm making the second arbitrary deadline of the end of June a firm one, and after that I'm going to start catching up on my reading. I'm designating the month of July read-all-the-crap-people-keep-telling-me-about month, and I thought I'd post some thoughts on what I think, with the goal of eliciting similar comments from you guys because, frankly, I miss talking about this stuff with all of you. Or at least those of you whose user names I can remember.

And here, just to give a sense of the plan, I'll start early. I just finished Rivka Galchen's Atmospheric Disturbances, which I found very readable and intelligent but somewhat unsatisfying. It's about a man who believes, upon his wife's return home one day, that she's actually been replaced by a simulacrum of herself. Though the phrase "Capgras syndrome" is never mentioned, anyone who's read Richard Powers's The Echo Maker will likely call it to mind. Given that the main character is a psychiatrist (and therefore a medical doctor), the missing term looms a bit too large for my taste, though I'd be curious to hear what others think, if anyone's read it. (And I do recommend the Powers--really enjoyed it.)


More Paul Ingram

By popular demand -- and because it's just so awesome when Paul talks about books.


So You Can Read It in the Bathroom

Remember wondering, at the announcement of its publication, how they would stretch DFW's commencement address at Kenyon to book-length? Well, the solution is one aphoristically-presented sentence per page.

Summer Reading with Paul Ingram