Critical Assessment

“The subject of identity – how human memory and reality might be manipulated by outside agents – features in countless futuristic books, stories and films, and has been especially popular in the last decade as advances in the visual, auditory and surgical arts have made us increasingly wary of trusting our senses. But McCarthy’s superb stylistic control and uncanny imagination transport this novel beyond the borders of science fiction. His bleak humor, hauntingly affectless narrator and methodical expansion on his theme make “Remainder” more than an entertaining brain-teaser: it’s a work of novelistic philosophy, as disturbing as it is funny. McCarthy shows that philosophy, like history, can repeat itself as farce. And in this farce, the slamming doors swing shut in slo-mo, reopening only to slowly close yet again.”

Liesl Schillinger, “Play It Again,” The New York Times, February 25, 2007.

First Excerpt

“Most of all I remembered this: that inside this remembered building, in the rooms and on the staircase, in the lobby and the large courtyard between it and the building facing with the red roofs with black cats on them – that in these spaces, all my movements had been fluent and unforced. Not awkward, acquired, second-hand, but natural. Opening my fridge’s door, lighting a cigarette, even lifting a carrot to my mouth: these gestures had been seamless, perfect. I’d merged with them, run through them and let them run through me until there’d been no space between us. They’d been real; I’d been real – been  without first understanding how to try to be: cut out the detour. I remembered this with all the force of an epiphany, a revelation.

“Right then I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my money. I wanted to reconstruct that space and enter it so that I could feel real again. I wanted to; I had to; I would. Nothing else mattered. I stood there staring at the crack. It all came down to that: the way it ran down the wall, the texture of the plaster all around it, the patches of colour to its right. That’s what had sparked the whole thing off.”

415cHlhvoJL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Second Excerpt

“‘The sunlight’s not doing it right,’ I said.

“Neither of them answered at first. Then Annie asked:

“‘What do you mean, not doing it right?’

“‘I mean,’ I said, ‘that it’s running over the floor too quickly. I measured the time the shaft falls from these windows onto the floor, from the first moment that it hits it to the time it leaves. I measured it when we first started doing these re-enactments, and I measured it today, and I can tell you without a doubt that it’s going faster now than it was then.’

“There was another pause, then Annie ventured, in a quiet, nervous voice:

“‘It’s later in the year.’

“‘What’s later in the year?’ I asked.

“‘It’s later now than it was when you first measured it,’ Annie explained. ‘Later in the year, further from midsummer. The sun’s at a different angle to us than it was.’

“I thought about that for a while until I understood it.

“‘Right,’ I said. ‘Of course. I mean . . . of course. I mean, I knew that, but I hadn’t . . . I hadn’t, I mean . . . Thank you. You may go now, both.'”