Essays on literature, pop culture, and more from the cult novelist and critic Tom McCarthy
Fifteen brilliant essays written over as many years provide a map of the sensibility and critical intelligence of Tom McCarthy, one of the most original and challenging novelists at work today. Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish explores a wide range of subjects, from the weather considered as a form of media, to the paintings of Gerhard Richter and the movies of David Lynch, to Patty Hearst as revolutionary sex goddess, to the still-radical implications of established masterpieces such as Ulysses (how do you write after it?), Tristram Shandy, and the unsung junky genius Alexander Trocchi’s darkly beautiful Cain’s Book. The longer “Recessional” examines the place of time in writing-how writing makes a new time of its own, a time apart from institutional time-while the startling “Nothing Will Have Taken Place” moves from MallarmÃ© and Don DeLillo to the ball mastery of Zidane to look at how art, whether that of a poet, novelist, or athlete, destroys given codes of meaning and behavior, returning them to play. Certain points of reference recur with dreamlike insistence-among them the artist Ed Ruscha’s Royal Road Test, a photographic documentation of the roadside debris of a Royal typewriter hurled from the window of a traveling car; the great blooms of jellyfish that are filling the oceans and gumming up the machinery of commerce and military domination-and the question throughout is: How can art explode the restraining conventions of so-called realism, whether aesthetic or political, to engage in the active reinvention of the world?