In Remainder, the extraordinary debut novel by author Tom McCarthy, the nameless victim of an unexplained accident uses compensation money to painstakingly reconstruct and re-enact his memories of a London apartment building. A darkly comic and unpredictable exploration of memory and identity, it was originally published by underground French publisher Metronome Press, and is now available to a wider readership courtesy of Alma Books.
Tom McCarthy’s non-fiction book Tintin and the Secret of Literature is published by Granta Books (also available from Raincoast), and Remainder will be published in North America by Vintage in 2007. Tom is also the General Secretary of the International Necronautical Society (INS), a semi-fictitious avant-garde network. He was born in 1969, and lives in London, England.
Raincoast Blog: Remainder has several incidental moments that appear significant but are ultimately unexplained. Do you know exactly what happens?
Tom McCarthy: If you mean do I know what exactly the ‘accident’ consisted of, no. It’s not Memento: it’s not important what the accident is, simply that it happened, that we’re in its aftermath. If you want to be literal about it, some bits of a satellite or plane falling on the hero’s head wouldn’t be a bad guess; if you want to be allegorical, you might think more along the lines that the ‘accident’ is history, time, being thrown into the world in the first place. All the other loose ends have their place and function at one level or another - short councillors, extra cups of coffee, even cordite…
RB: Is ambiguity a virtue?
TM: For sure. If you were simply communicating a message you were certain about it wouldn’t be any good as literature.
RB: So did you work out the precise details of the characters and plot first or did you just see where the initial idea would take you?
TM: The whole thing came in a flash, in half-an-hour of mad scribbling at a party after I’d seen a crack in the bathroom wall and had a moment of deja-vu, just like the hero. The rest was carpentry. Of course, details and whole sub-sequences came while I was developing and executing it, but essentially it was pretty much all there in the crack-moment.
RB: Is the apartment building in Remainder based on a real location?
TM: I went walking around Brixton (in South London) looking for a building corresponding to the one I had as a picture in my mind, just like the hero does. I found one that wasn’t exactly the same, but close enough to provide a base to work from, just like he does. It even had little roof-access cabins which I realised could be used for putting out the cats his vision requires to be slinking around (and which plummet to their deaths one after the other). The real building’s not called ‘Madlyn Mansions’ either: that’s a nod to Proust’s madeleine moment - and, of course, to madness.
RB: Do you think there is a unique London sensibility about the book? Will a North American audience read it differently to a British audience?
TM: It’s very integrated into the landscape of London, but I think that’s more incidental than fundamental. It’s by no means certain that the forthcoming movie will be set in London. Any big city that has dilapidated areas undergoing gentrification, coffee-shop chains and social hierarchies that break down along racial lines (and which big Western city doesn’t have all these?) could host its action. The only place it couldn’t be is LA, because then all its unreality and re-enactment scenes would play out as an allegory about the movies, which they’re not.
RB: I read in your fantastic Ready Steady Book interview with Mark Thwaite that you researched trauma and post-traumatic stress disorders for Remainder. Did you find that research interesting?
TM: It was absolutely fascinating. You wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy, but PTSD is an extremely creative condition. It instils a propensity for repetition alongside a need to disguise the scene being repeated, i.e. to generate other scenes and contexts for the primal event to morph through. It also leaves you with a sense that everything is somehow artificial, secondary, fake. Andy Warhol said that from the moment he was shot for the rest of his life onwards he felt he was just watching TV. The only ‘real’ thing for PTSD sufferers is the traumatic moment itself, which remains outside of proper memory, hence outside of all narrative, all representation. Again, that’s why the ‘accident’ must remain unnamed.
Raincoast Blog: Authenticity is a recurrent theme in Remainder and yet a lot of contemporary culture strives to be arch, or ironic. As an artist/author, is authenticity something important to you in your own work? What makes something authentic? Is authenticity possible through repetition? Are irony and authenticity mutually exclusive?
Tom McCarthy: These are complex questions, and to even begin grappling with them we’d have to go back to Plato, the notion of the simulacrum, and so on. Art’s whole currency and mode is inauthenticity, and yet it strives to be ‘truer’ than, say, propaganda, science, journalism - in fact, than all other mediums. Paul de Man wrote a brilliant essay on irony and inauthenticity called ‘The Rhetoric of Temporality’. I hadn’t read it when I wrote Remainder but it could be describing the book. He says that to recognise your own inauthenticity doesn’t mean you become authentic: you just repeat inauthenticity at more and more self-conscious levels, and that double, triple, quadruple language is called irony. Having said that, there’s ‘sincere’ irony and pat, smug irony, like you get in the worst one-liner, get-it-got-it kind of art. In Remainder I wanted to deal with the whole question of inauthenticity authentically, if that makes any sense.
RB: Remainder starts with the narrator describing being knocked unconscious by an unexplained lump of technological hardware, and in his subsequent quest for authenticity he has an aversion to using technology during his re-enactments. Do you have reservations about technology? (I appreciate it’s kind of ridiculous to be asking you this on email!)
TM: I’m not sure he’s averse to technology. He doesn’t want any cameras present during his re-enactments, but that’s largely because that would collapse the whole book into a Baudrillard-style meditation on media and the image, which I really didn’t want. He invests the huge sum of money which he gets as compensation for the accident in technology stocks. I’m fascinated by technology, or by the theme, at least. Techne means showing, revealing, and technology is the gauze through which the world reveals itself to us - and behind which it retreats. It’s the veil.
RB: Do you own a mobile phone?
TM: My god, yes. I’d rather leave home naked than without my phone.
RB: What will the future look like?
TM: Who on earth knows? I don’t even know what the present looks like! [J G]Ballard says we’ve collapsed the future into the present and we’re surrounded by fictions and fantasies from which we can pick at will. He says that the writer’s job is to invent the reality. I like that, that’s very good.
RB: It’s interesting that Remainder has been compared to J G Ballard, the author of Crash. Ballard seems to have this fascination with technology, and both Crash and Remainder have this clinical air of unease.
TM: Crash was a big influence. It’s more the repetition side of things than the technology. Ballard’s hero Vaughan re-enacts car crashes of the rich and famous. He’s also obsessed with becoming authentic, as is Ballard-the-character-in-the-book. He keeps saying things like ‘the car crash was the first real thing that had happened to me’. The heroes of both Crash and Remainder use re-enactment and stylised violence as a portal towards the real - and fail spectacularly, excessively, luxuriously.
RB: Are you a fan of Ballard?
TM: Ballard is fascinating because he’s a great writer without even being a good one. I don’t mean this negatively: I’m a huge fan. But he doesn’t care about polished prose (compare his sentences to Nabokov or Updike and they look like pulp) or depth of character. Having said that, Crash has an intense lyricism that comes from its almost incantatory, modulated repetition of technological and sociological terms, and Vaughan is a much truer presence for me than, say, some boring ‘rounded’ figure out of Jane Austen. That’s the great thing about Ballard: he’s got a vision, he’s a visionary, that makes him great, and the niceties he doesn’t bother with. He knows exactly where he stands in this respect. I talked to him once and told him my theory that Crash was a re-write of Don Quixote, whose hero also re-enacts stylised violent moments on the public highways in a bid for ‘authenticity’, and also fails fabulously - and he answered: ‘Your theory is great, but I’ve never read Don Quixote. I don’t really read proper books, I’m very low-brow.’ Genius.
RB: Who are your literary inspirations?
TM: I’m very un-Ballard in this respect. I went through a phase of worshipping Joyce, and read Ulysses and Finnegans Wake inside out. And before that, Conrad: I’d copy out whole passages from Heart of Darkness. Burroughs, Pynchon, Melville, Faulkner - The Sound and the Fury is the best book ever written in my opinion. I read lots, and try to work out how they do it. If you wanted to be really good at football you’d watch videos of Pele and Zidane and try to emulate their moves, then take them somewhere else. I like the French a lot: Genet, Blanchot, Bataille, Ponge. I like Shakespeare, and the Greeks. I’m really traditional I’m afraid. But then I’ve just published a book about how brilliant the Tintin books are from a literary viewpoint, so maybe I’m not all canonical...
Raincoast Blog: Remainder has had an interesting route to publication. How did you end up at Metronome Press and how did Alma Books come into the picture?
Tom McCarthy: I finished Remainder in 2001, but the conglomerates wouldn’t touch it with a barge-pole. To be fair, some editors pushed quite hard, but couldn’t get it past their marketing departments, acquisition boards, whatever they call the ones who actually call the shots. So I involved myself more with art projects for a while - art projects which were actually literary projects in disguise. The art world is very literate. Virtually no one I met in publishing in the UK had actually read much literature beyond contemporary middle-market stuff, but artists, curators, critics and so on are super-literate. Some of them were even doing work based on the writings of Beckett, Huysmans, Robbe-Grillet and so on. So I found a kind of refuge in that arena. And it was in that arena that I met Clementine Deliss, who set up Metronome Press with Thomas Boutoux. They’re both curators and critics, and they wanted to do a project around the legendary Olympia Press, which operated out of Paris in the 50s and 60s and published (in English) people who the conglomerates also wouldn’t touch with a barge-pole: Beckett, Burroughs, Trocchi, Nabokov, people like that. Olympia was very tied in with visual art, and with soft porn, and Metronome Press wanted to emulate that - re-enact it, you could say. So in late 2005 they published my book and three others, plus ‘Teasers’ that had erotic imagery from contemporary artists alongside excerpts from the books. They were determined that this was an art project, not a publishing one. So when Remainder was getting big press reviews and the UK chain stores were asking for it, they still only distributed it in art galleries and institutions. Then Alma came into the picture and produced a mass-market edition in 2006.
RB: Are you glad Remainder wasn’t taken up by a large publisher in the UK, or do you just think about the millions that you could’ve made?
TM: Funnily enough, as I was signing up to Alma after the good reviews and the general buzz, one of the biggest of the bigs, who’d rejected it on two separate occasions before, came running in trying to gazump them, offering my agent I don’t know how much. We were like: ‘It’s the same book now as it was then. F*** you.’ You’ve got to work with people who actually support what you want to do, or it’ll all go wrong a year or two down the line. I’ve signed with Vintage in the US, but that was because they came across it, tracked down Metronome (which wasn’t easy) and took it on their own initiative. The Editor-in-Chief, Marty Asher, said to me: ‘I don’t know if one hundred or one hundred thousand people will like it as much as I do, and I don’t care. It’s what I want to publish.’ And he can: he’s got the power. He’s like a fairy godmother. So’s Clementine Deliss. And Alma. I wonder how many other serious novels there are out there that haven’t found fairy godmothers yet. I’m lucky. Three years is nothing.
RB: What are you working on now?
TM: I’m editing the manuscript I wrote before Remainder, Men in Space, which Alma will bring out next spring. It’s a novel about disintegration set in Prague during the break-up of the former Eastern Bloc. And I’m working on a new novel called C, about technology and mourning.
RB: I came to your artwork relatively late. Could you explain the International Necronautical Society to me?
TM: The INS is a construct, a cultural fiction that gets played out in both virtual and real spaces. It’s got the bureaucracy of a Kafka novel (committees, sub-committees, sub-sub-committees), the political austerity of Stalinist governmental bodies (denouncing enemies and former members, issuing proclamations and so on), the cultural bombast of early twentieth century avant-gardes (it was launched with a manifesto very much modeled on the Futurist one of 1909), and the subversive viral energies of Burroughs and Debord (we infiltrated the BBC website a few years ago, inserting INS propaganda in its source code which only a network of a few hundred people could access). The INS is most visible when we hold Hearings, interrogating other artists and writers in front of press and public, publish reports or let public spaces such as the Institute of Contemporary Art in London host our FM broadcasting units; but it’s operative all the time, everywhere. We are all necronauts - always, already.
RB: I get asked this all the time by people in the book industry, so I am going to ask you - were you tempting fate by calling the book ’Remainder‘?
TM: Remainder is the right title. It’s about aftermaths, residues, what’s left when everything else has been said, shown, repeated, taken away. In terms of the book industry it’s the right title too: it was left behind, but it’s still there.
We, the First Committee of the International Necronautical Society, declare the following:-
1.That death is a type of space, which we intend to map, enter, colonise and, eventually, inhabit.
2. That there is no beauty without death, its immanence. We shall sing death's beauty - that is, beauty.
3. That we shall take it upon us, as our task, to bring death out into the world. We will chart all its forms and media: in literature and art, where it is most apparent; also in science and culture, where it lurks submerged but no less potent for the obfuscation. We shall attempt to tap into its frequencies - by radio, the internet and all sites where its processes and avatars are active. In the quotidian, to no smaller a degree, death moves: in traffic accidents both realised and narrowly avoided; in hearses and undertakers' shops, in florists' wreaths, in butchers' fridges and in dustbins of decaying produce. Death moves in our appartments, through our television screens, the wires and plumbing in our walls, our dreams. Our very bodies are no more than vehicles carrying us ineluctably towards death. We are all necronauts, always, already.
4. Our ultimate aim shall be the construction of a craft1 that will convey us into death in such a way that we may, if not live, then at least persist. With famine, war, disease and asteroid impact threatening to greatly speed up the universal passage towards oblivion, mankind's sole chance of survival lies in its ability, as yet unsynthesised, to die in new, imaginative ways. Let us deliver ourselves over utterly to death, not in desperation but rigorously, creatively, eyes and mouths wide open so that they may be filled from the deep wells of the Unknown.
1This term must be understood in the most versatile way possible.It could designate a set of practices, such as the usurpation of identities and personas of dead people, the development of specially adapted genetic or semantic codes based on the meticulous gathering of data pertaining to certain and specific deaths, the rehabilitation of sacrifice as an accepted social ritual, the perfection, patenting and eventual widespreaddistribution of ThanadrineTM, or, indeed, the building of an actual craft - all of the above being projects currently before the First Committee.
Tom McCarthy was born in 1969 and lives in London. He is known for the reports, manifestos and media interventions he has made as General Secretary of the International Necronautical Society (INS), a semi-fictitious avant-garde network. His nonfiction book Tintin and the Secret of Literature will be published by Granta Books in 2006. Remainder is his first novel.
Mark Thwaite: I wouldn't normally ask a writer about their publisher, Tom, but Metronome Press seem like such an interesting outfit that I'm intrigued as to how you got involved with them and why you decided to place your manuscript with such a new, small and untested house?
Tom McCarthy: It's very simple: all the corporate houses rejected it. Either the editors simply didn't 'get' it or they did but couldn't push it past the marketing people who run these places nowadays. When Clementine Deliss, who I knew from my involvement in the art world, set up Metronome Press with Thomas Boutoux, she asked to read Remainder, and decided it was the sort of book they wanted MP to promote.
MT: Clementine (Deliss) recently said (in an interview with 3:AM) that "fiction within art practice might be the way forward". Is that a sentiment you would agree with?
TM: When Remainder got stonewalled by the conglomerates in 2001-2 I turned my attention to art and started doing more and more art projects. And I noticed pretty quickly that, whereas the editors - and, indeed, writers - I'd come across on the mainstream publishing circuit were more or less ignorant about literature and its history, artists and curators were extremely literate. They'd all read people like Faulkner and Beckett and Joyce, and some of them were doing work based on the novels of Huysmans or Robbe-Grillet. In the current climate art has become the place where literary ideas and themes are creatively discussed and transformed - not publishing. On top of that, Metronome Press is itself a kind of art piece: a reprise of Maurice Girodias's Olympia Press, even down to their look and the way they bring out these little 'Teaser' booklets which mix erotic photography with excerpts from their novels. You could almost say it's a re-enactment, which obviously ties in very nicely with the subject-matter of Remainder. But Remainder isn't a piece of conceptual art, or curating or anything like that. It's just a straight-up novel.
MT: You are an artist yourself, Tom. Do you see a conflict or a tension between the two sides of your artistic endeavours? Is writing your first love?
TM: I became an artist by accident. I have no training in visual art: my entire background is in literature. The art thing started when I got interested in the early twentieth century art manifesto as a literary form and wrote a close pastiche of Marinetti's 1909 Manifesto of Futurism, but substituting his fetishisation of technology with a fetishisation of death (I was reading a lot of Blanchot and Derrida and stuff like that at the time). Gavin Turk gave me half a table at this 'Articultural Fair' he was organising, a kind of mock village-fete, and I handed out my International Necronautical Society or INS manifestos, and pretty soon all these galleries were going: 'This is conceptual art; have an exhibition.' So I set up a huge bureaucracy, with INS committees and sub-committees of philosophers and writers and artists, and got them to present reports in public session, and we'd arraign other artists in front of INS Hearings that very self-consciously reprised the format of Soviet show-trials or Un-American Activities Hearings, and the art press would all come and sit in special 'press' boxes in the galleries and report on it, and so on. What I was doing, in effect, was using art as an arena to play out the fictions of Kakfa, Conrad, Burroughs - people like that. Last year the INS had a whole radio station running out of the ICA, a giant control room in which more than forty assistants harvested lines of text picked up from newspapers, tv and other radio stations, cut them up and re-ordered their fragments into lines of poem-code which were transmitted over FM around London, like the secret radio messages in Cocteau's 1950 film Orphée. Basically, it was a huge Burroughsian cut-up that lasted ten days. So, yes, writing is my first love and there's nothing better than really good literature - but art has one advantage in that it provides an active space, a space of becoming-active. You can actually do the thing rather than just represent it. Not if you're a painter, of course - but in process-based art you can, and that's a really powerful thing.
MT: Did Remainder take you a long time to write? (And how do you write? Longhand, directly on to a computer?)
TM: It took about a year to write. I did lots of research into trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, and interviewed a couple of people who had been in bad accidents. I also researched forensic procedure and the formalities of bank robberies (thank God for the British Library's subject-searchable catalogue!). Plus I walked around Brixton with a camera and a dictaphone, studying the patterns on the pavement in the strip where the protagonist re-enacts the gangster shooting and capturing the details of the apartment building that would become Madlyn Mansions. I'd print all my notes out, then write skeletons for each chapter on a laptop, then print these out, add to them by hand, then write the draft itself back on the laptop.
MT: The plot of Remainder involves your (nameless) main character being traumatised "by an accident that involves something falling from the sky and leaves him eight and a half million pounds richer; our hero spends his time and money obsessively reconstructing and re-enacting memories and situations from his past". So, where did that come from then!?
TM: It came just like it does to the main character: I was in a friend-of-a-friend's bathroom, staring at a crack on the wall, and I got a sense of déja-vu. I half-remembered having been in a place like this, looking at an identical crack - but this other place had had a window looking over a courtyard at facing roofs around which cats were lounging; and there'd been the smell of liver frying, piano-music looping and so on. And I thought: if I had all the money in the world, I could hire architects and designers and actors to recreate and re-enact this memory. I realised straight away that this was the premise of a novel, and within an hour I'd jotted the whole plot down - apart from how he gets the money. I thought initially that he could win the lottery, but when I sat down to actually begin writing a few months later I decided that was a bit naff and that he should be a trauma victim instead. Trauma is intimately tied in with re-enactment: it brings about a compulsion to repeat. But I never thought of Remainder as just a psychological drama. What excited me right from the crack-moment onwards was that the premise clearly had much wider implications: it was about history and time, simulation, questions of authenticity and, by extension, of our whole state of being-in-the-world. And it was about the world's state of being-in-the-universe as well: the world, matter, this shard left over from some unnameably violent disaster - a remainder.
MT: Did you set out to write a self-consciously literary novel? What does that - literary novel - really mean to you?
TM: The themes of Remainder have a huge literary back-history. Reviewers have picked up on Huysmans's Against Nature and Ballard's Crash as influences, plus virtually anything by Beckett (think of Vladimir and Estragon re-enacting Pozzo and Lucky's antics in Waiting for Godot, or Winnie going through the same gesture of taking objects from her hand-bag day after day while fully aware that she's repeating the same gesture-loop in Happy Days). But it goes further back, right to Cervantes: Don Quixote is a guy who obsessively re-enacts certain situations. For that matter, so does Hamlet, getting the court actors to replay his father's death-scene. It goes even further. All the masks my protagonist makes his re-enactors wear, the looks of dread on their faces even when they take them off, the way he keeps inducing ponderous, slow states that tend towards stasis: I was thinking of Greek tragedy. But - and this is really important - it wouldn't have worked if the book had been self-consciously literary. Imagine him standing in front of the crack going: 'Hmm, I'm experiencing something similar to what Proust describes with the madeleine…' It would have been dreadful. So I was very careful to make sure the narrator had absolutely no literary sensibility. Similarly with art and philosophy: his activities have been read (and not wrongly) by one reviewer as an allegory for the experience of art, but the book would have been no good if he'd been an artist or a thinker. So I made sure he had no interest in or awareness of these things. He's not an intellectual: he's a bloke, an Everyman. I did leave a few little pointers if you really want to look: he lives off Ruskin Park, the flat with the crack in is on Plato Road… These are real places in Brixton, although 'Madlyn Mansions' isn't. But that stuff is for literary train-spotters: it doesn't matter at all to the book. Writing has to do its thing as directly and credibly as possible, I reckon, not retreat into a rarefied back-zone of references - unless, of course, that is the thing it's doing, like in Finnegans Wake for example. To put it another way: in good writing, the whole history of literature is at play, but it's being actively transformed into something with real immediacy, and that immediacy doesn't have to be complex.
MT: You say that Remainder was inspired by Blanchot's The Writing of the Disaster. I'm fascinated by this. In what way did Blanchot - such a difficult writer and critic many think - inspire you and your work?
TM: The Writing of the Disaster is a brilliant, mesmerising book. I don't know what the fuck it means, but I read it like poetry: all these lyrical invocations of a 'patience that is the passivity of dying whereby an I that is no longer I answers to the limitlessness of the disaster, to that which no present remembers' and of 'repetition, the ultimate over and over, general collapse, destruction of the present.' All the repetition in Remainder, those scenes in which he does nothing, or at least nothing active, but just passively delivers himself over to some process, to the ripples of an 'event' which has already happened, never happened, never stopped happening and is forever yet to come - that's very Blanchot. And the whole trauma premise, the accident he can never name which 'involved something falling from the sky': as Blanchot points out, the word 'disaster' comes from des astre, 'from the stars'. It's fate, it's gravity, it's time and, of course, death. I used 'Desastre' as a working title for the novel, until Remainder sested itself.
MT: Have you been pleased with the response to your novel?
TM: I've been delighted. There have been intelligent reviews in places like the TLS, The Indy on Sunday, Time Out and 3:AM, who kindly named it their Book of the Year; I've been whisked over to Vancouver to do a reading at the art school where they're studying the whole question of re-enactment, invited to give a seminar on it at the Central School of Speech and Drama here in London - and so on. It seems to have by-passed the commercial sector and gone straight into the critical one, which is exactly where I wanted it to play out. Distribution is a problem, though. A corporate publisher would get your book into all the bookshops - but then to be with a corporate publisher it seems to me that your book would have to execute the kind of brief dictated by their market research teams, which would make it not worth writing in the first place. You may as well go into advertising and become a copywriter instead. You'd make more money that way, that's for sure!
MT: Do you think anything can be done about the dominance of nescient bookshops and huge corporate publishers?
TM: Yes. I think the solution is very simple: the Arts Council needs to fund independent literary publishers directly. They fund non-commercial art spaces in order to guarantee that quality artworks which aren't commodity-based get produced and circulated. They need to do the same with publishers. I'm not a Marxist, but it's blindingly obvious that if you apply the logic of commodity marketing at an editorial level you just churn out bland, middle-brow products that can't in any meaningful sense be called 'literature'. Maybe writers should take a cue from artists, who have been setting up independent, artist-run galleries for a decade or so now, and applying for funding so the spaces can gather momentum and status. To an extent, that's what Clementine Deliss and Thomas Boutoux have done: they set up Metronome Press in Paris, where they can get direct public funding, and also hit on major arts patrons for support. The response to Remainder has made me think that enough people believe in proper writing to make something dynamic happen here - they just need a strategy. I hope someone from the Arts Council is reading this. Hey you - yes you! - start funding independent publishers directly, or else the country with the strongest literary tradition in the world will have a 'lost generation' as big as Stalin's!
MT: What are you working on now? What is coming next?
TM: I'm working on a novel about family secrets, incest and telephony. It's very influenced by the autobiography of Sergei Pankajev, the real figure behind Freud's case history 'The Wolf Man'.
MT: What is the best book you have read recently? Who is your favourite writer/what is your favourite book?
TM: I'm reading this amazing new book by Stewart Home called Tainted Love. He is the single best writer in the UK in my opinion - although he'd hate to be called that as he's a kind of anti-writer. My favourite books are probably the Usual Suspects I'm afraid: Moby Dick, Heart of Darkness, The Sound and the Fury, Ulysses - plus some less obvious ones like Nova Express, Ada or Ardor, Updike's Rabbit books. I'm sorry for being predictable - but if you ask people who their favourite footballers of all time are you'll be told Pele, Maradonna, George Best: they do things with the form that are incredible, make and unmake the world at every moment. That's what literature at its best can do.
MT: Has the internet changed the way that you read and write?
TM: No. These people who do online 'hypertext fiction' are completely missing the point. Literature was hypertexted up way before HTML came along. They'd realise that if they bothered to read Chaucer, let alone Raymond Roussel. What has been really interesting, though, has been discovering literary e-zines like yours in the wake of Remainder's publication. They're for the most part run by people with a considerable knowledge of literature, who are also editorially independent, unlike the broadsheets who have to largely plug the conglomerates' products which they offer at special reader-discount prices under the reviews. I noticed the BBC and Guardian sites have started linking to Britlitblogs.com. It's almost as though they were listening in to get the dope. You've become like Hy Bear to their Starsky and Hutch!
MT: Anything else you'd like to say?
TM: No - just thanks for your interest in Remainder and good luck with RSB.
-- Mark Thwaite