Recessional: Or, the Time of the Hammer

Tom McCarthy. Diaphanes (Univ. of Chicago, dist.), $12.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-3-03-734589-4
"The time of fiction" is "the interim," according to McCarthy (Satin Island) in this slim book of literary criticism. Drawing primarily on modernist works as well as his own books, McCarthy describes a suspended interval, or a "recessional time" marked by rupture, as the ticking clock of time in literature. This recessional is evident in the "extremely relative" passage of time in the cloistered sanatorium of Mann's The Magic Mountain, a refuge from the drumbeat of the outside world, or in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, the whole of which revolves around Addie Bundren's restive transport to the grave. It is this refusal of resolution, to get on with things, that McCarthy sees in the plays of Beckett, in YouTube buffering, or in the glitch art that results from streaming a World Cup match on a computer. "The dominant order of time is already a fiction," he writes. A significant image he returns to is pulled from the bible of anthropological literature, Claude Lévi-Strauss's Tristes Tropiques, in which Lévi-Strauss writes anthropological notes on one side of his papers and a failed "epic play" on the other, representing theory on one side, and art on the other. McCarthy zooms in on the "pulp" of the paper between the two sides of the page: "[T]his mulchy, messy pulp... I think that would be the space of literature, which is neither one nor the other; it's this messy, unresolved between." This study will be intriguing to those seeking a discussion of the intersection of art and theory, and will be coveted by fans of McCarthy's—his enthusiasm for the potential of art is totally infectious. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/07/2016
Release date: 03/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
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