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Remainder Paperback – February 13, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

McCarthy's debut novel, set in London, takes a clever conceit and pumps it up with vibrant prose to such great effect that the narrative's pointlessness is nearly a nonissue. The unnamed narrator, who suffers memory loss as the result of an accident that "involved something falling from the sky," receives an £8.5 million settlement and uses the money to re-enact, with the help of a "facilitator" he hires, things remembered or imagined. He buys an apartment building to replicate one that has come to him in a vision and then populates it with people hired to re-enact, over and over again, the mundane activities he has seen his imaginary neighbors performing. He stages both ordinary acts (the fixing of a punctured tire) and violent ones (shootings and more), each time repeating the events many times and becoming increasingly detached from reality and fascinated by the scenarios his newfound wealth has allowed him to create—even though he professes he doesn't "want to understand them." McCarthy's evocation of the narrator's absorption in his fantasy world as it cascades out of control is brilliant all the way through the abrupt climax. (Feb.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Rejected in England before it was acquired by a small French publishing house, Tom McCarthy's debut novel is now a popular and critical success. The author, who in 1999 launched the semihoax International Necronautical Society (INS)—designed to map and colonize the space of death—transfers some of the Society's philosophical concerns to his novel. About human reality, social constructions, and the quest for identity, Remainder offers a highly original and insightful allegory of our times. In a clear, deadpan tone, the narrator, "an existential Everyman" (Los Angeles Times), tells a bizarre, disorienting, and compelling story. The vagueness may bother some readers, but most will enjoy pondering the ambiguity of it all.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (February 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307278352
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307278357
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,343 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Stephen M. Sagar on June 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
Remainder is a novel to be read for the existential discomfort that it leaves you with. Those who read this for a plot will not be satisfied. It attempts to recreate (or "re-enact") the soul and its connection to the material world, and cleverly poses the question who is observing who and what is the real self.

If you do not wish to contaminate your experience of the novel, then do not read on. Just read the following paragraph, which is my conclusion:

I highly recommend this book to those interested in exploring existentialism, the philosophy of body and soul, and also post-traumatic stress syndrome. Besides that, I found this to be an entertaining novel that I could not put down, full of a quirky British sense of humor.You may find yourself reading the book a number of times to digest the full meaning.

What is reality? The author may have cleverly "tricked" the reader into thinking that the novel takes place in the "real" material world....

My take on this novel(and this can be interpreted in many ways) is that the whole sequence is a dream, possibly of someone dying on a ventilator in an ICU, having experienced a horrific trauma. It may even have occurred at the instant preceding death...there is much emphasis on slowing down and stretching time.The re-enactments cleverly contain dream-like images and metaphors of the events surrounding the trauma. As he struggles to live (possibly within a coma and a paralysed body)he recreates the moment of "death", stuck in a state that borders on life and death at the moment of the trauma. As he struggles to hang on to life, he reinvents the traumatic moment...he is stuck at that point.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Laura Grey on May 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
Remainder by Tom McCarthy

Tom McCarthy is a kid with a box of crayons and his own set of rules. Remainder, a first novel, could best be described as the story of what could happen at the crossroads of weird and possible. What happens when you give a guy a mysterious brain injury and more money than he'll ever need? Throw in a little bit of disoriented pride and you've got the makings of this strangely compelling novel.

We first meet our hero as he relearns how to walk, eat, and talk, one laborious maneuver at a time, but this is no heroic recovery novel. Soon he is able to appear to be the same as he once was. He has lost his memory, but it is slowly coming back to him, and as a huge lawsuit settlement turns him into a multi-millionaire, he goes on a quest to create, or recreate, a moment that will make him feel something real, something non-maneuvered. So much money not only allows him to go about this quest in whatever way he sees fit, but it also allows him to refuse to explain himself as the money flows.

The unnamed narrator, unnamed perhaps because, as the title suggests, he is less of a real person than the remainder of a real person after the accident. How much humanity remains in this remainder? How far is he willing to go to feel something real? How many rules of society will his money let him break, and how long will that money last? The crescendo of this mad fugue will keep adventurous readers enthralled.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Michael P. McCullough on November 28, 2012
Format: Paperback
A man who has been involved in an accident, the details of which are not disclosed, ends up with a gigantic cash settlement and a vague brain injury that leaves him uninterested in life until one moment, while he is looking at a crack in a plaster bathroom wall he has an epiphany - he imagines a precise scene involving a certain building, certain people, smells, even a view out the window of black cats on red roofs. He decides he wants to recapture this epiphany and spends a great deal of money, and all his time (aided by an increasingly obsessed hired facilitator), finding (and buying) a building to modify into this imaginary place, and hiring reenactors to replay the scene over and over, day after day. More epiphanies are eventually reenacted obsessively and this captivating novel shows us an increasingly absurd perception of time, thought, action, and reality. It sounds odd, and it is, but it works.

In some ways this novel reminds me of Cosmos: A Novel - mostly because that novel also involves a narrator who derives bizarre thoughts and meanings, and pursues subsequent actions, based upon, among other things, a random crack on a ceiling - but of course the novels go in different directions from there. The narrator of *Cosmos* is quite sinister whereas the narrator of *Remainder* is detached, or if not detached then obsessed with an essence that most people would simply take for granted.

Most highly recommended.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By controlyorhorse on January 2, 2011
Format: Paperback
With the hope of countering my tendencies to avoid most "new" fiction I purchased this book thinking I could be proven wrong; to be shown that most literature that enters the marketplace in the 21st century is not a thoughtless waste of time. The first 60 or so pages of this book had promise, but then it revealed itself to be a forced, semi-imaginative and uninspired mass of pages. I feel somewhat bad for saying this but it cannot be helped. Instead I picked up "The Goalies Anxiety at the Penalty Kick" by Peter Handke, which is a tidy, superior and exceptional novel. Sorry Tom.
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