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.

7 comments:

Emily said...

I strongly relate to that feeling/idea as well. It can be very enjoyable, I find, but also disconcerting or creepy - a disconnect of some kind, almost a sense of social vertigo. You've got me intrigued about McCarthy.

claire said...

I'll wait for your final thoughts before deciding on whether to pick this book up or not. I've been going back and forth, as I saw this at Chapters for $5.99. I went there twice for the sole intent of purchasing this and then didn't. It feels right but somehow I'm afraid of reading something which is after all a dud. So you're my guinea pig, lol.

Isabella said...

I did the same thing, Claire, and once I decided, I think I got the last copy. Go back and get one before they're gone!

I'm not at home this week and don't know if I'll have time to write more about it any time soon, but the mood of this book is intensely peculiar, and then it starts getting creepy. I'm completely sold on looking into more of McCarthy's books.

Frances said...

And the truth is that "becoming an adult" in the conventional sense is a choice. You may assume the other assigned roles (like the eternal child) or hide all in a closet to wear at will. Authenticity is self-generated in a way I suppose. But then writing your own script is still in fact a script. Sooo. yeh, I get what you are saying. I have wanted to read this book ...

claire said...

I got a copy!!! There are also copies of his other book. Let me know if you want one and can't find it there..

Isabella said...

Thanks for the offer, Claire. I have an Indigo across the street from my office; picked up a copy of Men in Space a couple weeks ago.

I already want to read Remainder again.

Phone Sex said...

You have made awesome, really good I am impressed by this stuff. I am impressed by this blog post.