The Impossibility of Writing The Book

Tom McCarthy, “Tom McCarthy by Frederic Tuten,” BOMB 131 (Spring 2015)

I finished the first draft of C a week before my first daughter was born. Five years and another daughter later, my next — short — novel is coming out. The writing definitely got slowed down. Sleep was a major problem for a couple of years — there just wasn’t any. But it all works its way back into the work. Satin Island is, to some extent, a book about a restless struggle with the impossibility of writing the Book. Social life — well, you go out and meet interesting people, and that galvanizes ideas and gives birth to other projects. It all finds its way back, even, especially, the time-wasting. If you think about it, time-wasting is probably the central theme of most modern literature. Leopold Bloom spends his whole day time-wasting; Marcel Proust, his whole life.

The Book-Beyond-The-Book

Tom McCarthy, Satin Island (2015)

…this not-Report you’re reading now, this offslew of the real, unwritten manuscript… (p. 115)

I’d begun to suspect — in fact, I’d become convinced — that this Great Report was unplottable, unframeable, unrealizable: in short, an in whatever cross-bred form, whatever medium or media, unwritable. Not just by me, with my limited (if once celebrated) capabilities, but fundamentally, essentially, inherently unwritable. . . . Even when I reasoned these last, deranged notions back out to the fringes of my mind, I was still left with the immovable fact of the thing’s unwritability. This filled me with anger, and a feeling of stupidity, and sadness, too — grief not for an actual loss but, worse, for a potential or iaginary one: this beautiful, magnificent Report: this book, the Book, the fucking Book, that was to name our era, sum it up; this book that left the format of the book itself behind, this book-beyond-the-book. . . . (pp. 115-116)