A month or so ago I came across an article and an interview with artist and author Tom McCarthy. Didn’t know who he was but the reading was good, so I investigated, became more interested, and decided to pursue. I ordered his most recent book, “Satin Island,” and the book he is most well known for, “Remainder.” Neither were available in my local brick and mortar book store, so I took a trip on that great river of capitalism, Amazon, and clicked away. “Satin Island” arrived first. I was only half way through before I ordered two more volumes, “C,” and “Men In Space.” McCarthy has been described as avant garde. Maybe. Not sure about that. His writing isn’t your average fare, and reading his text has changed the angle from which I approach “the book,” but I’m not yet convinced of “avant garde.” How about, intelligent, challenging, and engaging? Three words that might not be easily pasted to many of today’s books. ANYWAY, I don’t want to review these books, I want to let you know that, if you desire to actively read a contemporary writer’s works, and you choose to fight Art Disease with every breath (“Art Disease,” as described by conceptual artist Richard Olson, is typified by a hardening of the categories,) then I can, with a smile and a blink recommend these tomes. “Satin Island” follows the intellectual and emotional gymnastics of a corporate anthropologist who has been charged with authoring “The Great Report.” Imagine trying to summarize, codify, and categorize all of existence from within and without of (a/the) contemporary human existence. Yeah. “Remainder,” which has been made into a film (oh god oh god oh god how on earth could it be done, well, maybe, yes, if it were filmed and scripted with the same artistry as the book was written,) is concerned with a gentleman who, with unlimited funds, attempts to re-enact fragments of memories and perceived situations that cause him to experience pleasure and a sensation of belonging and ease. Really. How could anything go wrong in a scenario such as that? And then there is the book I am currently exercising with, “Men In Space.” This was actually the first novel McCarthy wrote, but it was published after “Remainder.” It takes place, so far, in Central Europe, right after the fall of communism. It references art, painting, abandoned cosmonauts, sex, drugs, language, and, oh…space. It, for me, is the most difficult to navigate, but it is also extremely complex in its simplicity and very simple in its complexity. That isn’t just empty word play there, it is as accurate as I can get to an objective description. Okay. Maybe “avant garde” works. Maybe. In any case, anyway, so…there you have it. A series of experiments in reading. It’s about time. They’re about space and time, perception, happiness, understanding, process. art, as a transitive verb.
©2016 Stuart Dummit