Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Some kind of regard

When Catherine flew into London on the day the Settlement came through, I arrived at the airport just after her flight was due in. I saw from the Arrivals screens that it had landed and I hurried over to the area where the sliding screen doors separate the customs and immigration area from the public terminal. I leant against a rail and watched passengers emerge from these doors. It was interesting. Some of the arriving passengers scanned the waiting faces for relatives, but most weren't being met. These ones came out carrying some kind of regard to show to the assembled crowd, some facial disposition they'd struck up just before the doors slid open for them. They might be trying to look hurried, as though they were urgently needed because they were very important and their businesses couldn't run without them. Or they might look carefree, innocent and happy, as though unaware that fifty or sixty pairs of eyes were focused on them, just on them, if only for two seconds. Which of course they weren't — unaware, I mean. How could you be? The strip between the railings and the doors was like a fashion catwalk, with models acting out different roles, different identities. I leant against the rail, watching this parade: one character after another, all so self-conscious, stylized, false. Other people really were like me; they just didn't know they were. And they didn't have eight and a half million pounds.

— from Remainder, by Tom McCarthy.

I'm about halfway through and loving it. To this point, I don't know what the "remainder" actually refers to (what's left of the eight and a half million pounds?), but I find myself relating to the narrator quite intensely (apart from him having eight and a half million pounds), this constant, all-pervading sense of inauthenticity, like when you see yourself going to work on the metro, all dressed up and determined and serious, pretending to be a grown-up professional, or when you're out for drinks and you say witty things and toss your head and laugh like it's all been scripted, but you can't step outside of that role, cuz there's nothing outside the script, the play's the thing, this is what it is to be a grown-up: pretending to be a grown-up.

Or maybe it's just me. (And the narrator.) Maybe the book's supposed to be about something else entirely.
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