An Interview with Tom McCarthy
Tom McCarthy is a writer and artist. He was born in 1969 and lives in London. Tom grew up in Greenwich, south London, and studied English at New College, Oxford. After spending a couple of years in Prague in the early 1990s, he worked in Amsterdam as literary editor of the local Time Out. His debut novel Remainder was first published in November 2005 by Paris-based art publisher Metronome Press. After becoming a cult hit, Remainder was republished by Alma Books in the UK (2006) and Vintage Books in the US (2007), garnering huge critical acclaim. It has since been translated into eleven languages. In June 2008, the novel won the fourth annual Believer Book Award , and in November 2008 Zadie Smith chose Remainder as one of the “Two Paths for the Novel”. In 2016, it was adapted for cinema.
A work of literary criticism by Tom, Tintin and the Secret of Literature, was released by Granta Books in June 2006. Tom’s second novel, Men in Space, came out in 2007 (Alma Books). He has also published numerous stories, essays and articles on literature, philosophy and art.
His ongoing art project, the International Necronautical Society, a semi-fictitious avant-garde network that surfaces through publications, proclamations, denunciations and live events, has been described by Untitled Magazine as “the most comprehensive total art work we have seen in years” and by Art Monthlyas “a platform for fantastically mobile thinking”. In 2003 the INS broke into the BBC website and inserted propaganda into its source code. The following year, they set up a broadcasting unit at the Institute of Contemporary Arts from which more than forty “agents” generated non-stop poem-codes which were transmitted over FM radio in London and by internet to collaborating radio stations around the world. Tom has also tutored and lectured at various institutions, including the Architectural Association, Central Saint Martins School of Art and the Royal College of Art.
His Latest novel, C, was shortlisted for the 2010 Booker Prize
1) What led you into writing?
I always wanted to write.
2) What was your earliest career aspiration?
To be Shakespeare. I wrote ‘Macbeth, by Tom McCarthy’ aged 7.
3) Can you describe your book Men in Space and its inspiration in thirty words?
It’s about disintegration – of all types – in the wake of the collapse of communism in Prague.
4) Do you have any plans for your next book (C)?
It’s about technology and mourning.
5) What has been the most exciting moment in your career?
Having my first novel, on its initial limited release by a small art press, reviewed at length in the Times Literary Supplement. I hadn’t expected that, and knew that nothing would be the same again.
6) What are you reading right now?
7) If you could have dinner with any three people, past or present, who would they be?
They’d be characters, not writers: one of Sade’s libertines, Huysmans’s Des Esseintes, Melville’s Queequeg.
8) Which period in history would you most like to have lived through?
I’d have liked to be a regular at Warhol’s Factory. Or the French Revolution.
9) If your house was on fire, which three books would you save from the flames?
My copy of Finnegans Wake; my diary from when I was eight (best thing I’ve ever written); my copy of The Sound and the Fury.
10) What do you do to relax?
Look out of my twelfth-floor window.
Find out more about Men in Space
Find out more about Remainder – 10th Anniversary edition
Find out more about Remainder – film tie-in edition