In 2011, after having long heard great things about McCarthy, I read the latest of his novels, C. A month or so ago, I finally read Remainder, which was the kind of novel that I will be reading over and over again. (His second, Men in Space, is on my to-read pile now.) Anyway, my inverse method has proved ironically fruitful: I discovered an interesting connection between C and Remainder, which seems too striking not to be intentional.
In Remainder, a 30-year-old man, after being hit by a mysterious object from the sky, comes into £8.5 million as part of hushed settlement. After rejecting the suggestions of friends as to how to spend the settlement, the man eventually settles on a purpose, struck as he is by notions of authenticity:
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 color to its right. That’s what had sparked the whole thing off. I had to get it down somehow—exactly, how it forked and jagged.
He settles on increasingly elaborate re-creations of his past, trying to reach at memories he cannot quite form. Eventually he creates a reenactment of a fatal shooting—not something he remembered, but something that recently occurs. That’s where C comes in: a bit of an airport and tarmac has been repurposed to re-create the street area where the shooting happened. Of the various signs and symbols on the streets, one says “water,” others say “EM124 and B125” and a last one bears a simple “C”:
It [the dead man’s mind] might even have looked to the holes plumbed into the street’s surface: the water outlet and the London Transport one and the ones with strings of letters and even the one with just the C—and been told, by each one: No, you can’t enter here; you’ll have to find another exit.
I’m not entirely sure what to make of this. So let me muse: C was all about signs, codes, and representations, and how we take so much from even the smallest symbols. If we imagine this part of Remainder as a sort of stepping off point for C—which may not be too hard to imagine—perhaps C is best seen as a sort of continuation of the ideas of Remainder: after all, so much of “authentic” reality is, weirdly enough, not “real” in the sense that it is symbolic. (Among other things, I’m thinking of language here.) Part of what feels the most real—and was the most real for the protagonist of Remainder—was heavily symbolic (such as his elaborate reenactments).
Anyway, if you have any better thoughts, email me.