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One of the Guardian Unlimited Books' top 10 literary blogs: "A home-grown treasure ... smart, serious analysis"

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Tuesday 18 September 2007

Tom McCarthy interview (part 2)

Yesterday, I posted the first part of my week-long interview with Tom McCarthy. Today, Tom lists his Top Ten Novels over on The Book Depository ... and I give you the second part of my interview with Mr McCarthy below:


Mark Thwaite: What do you see as the main fundamental differences between Men in Space and Remainder Tom?


Tom McCarthy: Superficially, they’re very different novels: dispersed third-person versus monomaniacal first, eclectic overabundance versus pared-down minimalism and so on. But ultimately they’re concerned with the same things. Repetition, for example, and the idea of inauthenticity. Also, as I hinted earlier, they’re both about failed transcendence. In both novels, there are two directions, two pulls: up, and down. Things get sent up towards the sky, the heavens; they come crashing down again. In Men in Space these things are people, eras, whole societies; in Remainder it’s blue goop from a windscreen-wiper reservoir – and also, of course, an aeroplane and whatever piece of hardware fell on the hero in the first place. In both novels, there’s a battle between an abstracting, idealist tendency and a material one that leads to clutter and detritus – and in both the latter wins hands down (go and look at Yeats’s The Circus Animals’ Desertion and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about). And both end in a kind of suspension: the hero of Remainder doing aerial figure-of-eights, or Nick stuck on the roof holding the rope while history’s wheel loops round and round...


MT: What were the biggest challenges of writing MiS? How did you overcome them?


TM: How do you write a novel about disintegration that’s not disintegrated, that’s coherent? And how do you write about things you’ve experienced while simultaneously configuring it all from a novelistic point of view? In the first draft, there were episodes in there simply because they’d happened to me and seemed important at the time; then you realize that that doesn’t matter: everything has to play a role within the novel’s architecture, its staging posts, relays and correspondences. Also, more prosaically (and it is prose we’re talking about, after all), how do you get a character into and out of a room? I find that hard enough.


MT: I understand the film rights for Remainder have been sold? What does this actually mean!? When might we see a film?


TM: A partnership of FilmFour and Cowboy Films have bought the rights and are producing the movie. They’re the partnership behind the recent adaptation of The Last King of Scotland, which was a huge success and won an oscar for Forrest Whittaker. The first draft of the script has been written, by John Hodge, who wrote the script for Trainspotting. I’m not technically involved, but the producer gave me a peek and it looked really good. Next they decide who the director will be. So maybe 2008/9 for the release date. It always takes longer and costs more than you think, apparently...

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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