The Not-Oyster Bit

Tom McCarthy interviewed about Tristram Shandy in Henry HitchingsBirth of the British Novel broadcast on BBC Four, 7 February 2011:

HH: What is a novel?

(Tom McCarthy laughs.)

TMC: A novel is something that contains its own negation, right? So a novel is not a novel without an anti-novel lodged in it. It’s like an oyster: it isn’t interesting unless it has got a bit of grit in it as well — that not-oyster bit that kind of produces the pearl. In Tristram Shandy, this is precisely what produces the drama: the central drama of that book is its own undermining. And I think, in a way, this is what every book should be, in one way or another.