Mike Interviews: Tom McCarthy Part 1 of 3

Mike Interviews

I thought I'd kick this interview off with Tom's agent Jonny Pegg from Curtis Brown. I asked him about Tom and he had this to say:

It's been a joy to see Tom's talents recognized, but I'm most excited about what's to come. Tom combines genuine originality with a passion for the big ideas of art, philosophy, science and literature, and to me this promises an oeuvre rich in both trademark qualities and new directions. Having seen a little of his work in progress, I can say 'watch this space' with confidence.

Tom McCarthy is the author of Remainder and recently Men in Space, he has also written TinTin and the Secret of Literature, a non fiction book.

Tell me a bit about yourself.

I was born in 1969 and grew up in Greenwich.

What's your ideal night out/in?

I once woke up to find, on my coffee table, a pair of skimpy knickers, white powder residue and an open copy of Francis Ponge's 'La Partie Pris des Choses'. I can't remember what I'd done the night before - but whatever it was, that's my perfect night.

What is your favorite book?

'The Sound and the Fury' by William Faulkner.

When did you start writing?

When I was very young. My mother told me the story of Macbeth and I thought: that's great, I'll write it. So I borrowed a neighbour's typewriter and wrote 'Macbeth, by Tom McCarthy'. The neighbour said: 'Shouldn't it be 'by William Shakespeare?' and I asked: 'Why?' I was right. Someone wrote Macbeth before Shakespeare too. I don't think I finished my version; somewhere around Act II I went and played outside instead.

How did you get involved in the International Necronautical Society and what is the INS?

The INS is a construct, just like the IMF or Catholic Church are constructs - and like all constructs, it involves both fictions and realities. I founded it because I was interested in the modes and procedures of early twentieth century avant-gardes - manifestos, committees, proclamations and denunciations and so on - and wanted to use that 'found' format in a contemporary cultural environment. I was also interested in continental philosophy and modernist literature, and death is a central theme in both of these. So I set up the INS, appointed philosophers and artists to the First Committee, and pretty soon we had a whole international network of agents and associates.

What was the reason behind you writing Tintin and the Secret of Literature and how was that received?

Granta asked if I wanted to write a book on Freud or Derrida or someone like that, and I said: 'Well, if I write about HergĂ© I can write about Freud, Derrida and whole bunch of other people – plus it'll be much more fun.' It was received well for the most part. There were one or two hilarious English reviews in which you could virtually see the reviewer's veins bursting with little-England rage at the book's continental bent.

How did you come to the attention of agent, Jonny Pegg and what effect did it have on you getting such a good agent?

I was represented initially by Jonny's predecessor Mike Shaw; when Jonny took over, he inherited me. I was very lucky: he's the best there is here. In the US I'm represented by Melanie Jackson, who's also magnificent, so I'm doubly lucky.

How did you feel when Metronome Press picked up your first novel Remainder?

I knew Clementine Deliss; she'd talked with me a year or so earlier about this project she wanted to do, publishing contemporary fiction in a format that emulated Maurice Girodias's Olympia Press of the fifties and sixties, right down to the layout of the books and the release of small 'Teaser' pamphlets in which excerpts from the novels mingled with soft porn. I thought it was a great idea, not least because Olympia published everyone worth reading back then: Nabokov, Burroughs, Trocchi, the lot. So when she asked if I had anything I happily showed her Remainder and was delighted for it to come out in that context.

Tomorrow: Part 2 and a chance to win a signed copy of Men in Space from ALMA BOOKS, Tom's publisher.
Friday: Part 3 , where Tom talks about the film, Film4 are making of Remainder.

For this interview in the printed edition of TVFH visit here.

Picture Credit: Alisa Conan

For part 2 click here.


Paul Burman said...

I wish you'd stop making me want to go out and buy more books, Mike. Tom McCarthy's work sounds even more fascinating now. What an interesting and sanely irreverent guy. But stop, Mike! I don't have enough time to read everything on The Stack as it is.

Mike French said...

Just one more wafer thin book Paul?

GO! Smell the flowers said...

LOL and we're with Paul,

Your interviews are a great hook for a book....


Paul Burman said...

Just the thing to watch before dinner, Mike. Merci beaucoup et bon appetit.

Mike French said...

Bon appetit Paul, would sir like an after dinner mint?