It’s a book about a man who builds in order to feel

From Anthem:

I found a lot of similarities between Synecdoche and this novel, Remainder, by Tom McCarthy…

This script, for the record, [was] written before that novel came out. I saw a review of that thing [Remainder]; I was freaked out. I intentionally did not read it. I have not read it. I hadn’t made the movie yet, and I didn’t want to have any kind of influence [from] it. But like I said, this script was written before that came out. I saw it online and I thought, A) oh fuck, and B) this is a book that I would read, normally. This sounds like a cool book. But I won’t. And I haven’t. And I probably at some point I will, but I don’t know…now it might be awful to read it. It might be like, Oh, he had this great idea that I didn’t have and I cant do anything about it.

This is a really, really intense fear; by which I mean that he is terribly worried about authenticity for his film that is really authenticity-fear times a huge, huge number. I mean, you’ve had this idea about repetition and then someone repeats it. 

Do you remember that Improv Everywhere sketch? The one where they repeated the same actions over and over again in a Starbucks? 

Best line of the day from the old people: “You know, there’s another Starbucks right over there, I bet this is all happening there, too.”

In trauma theory it’s called repetition compulsion: the desire to repeat a traumatic event as a way to “master the overwhelming feelings of the traumatic moment.” For Kaufman and McCarthy it is, anyway, or was, until the traumatic thing is just your life and what it is is repetition fetish. But that’s why this sketch is so so very good and maybe a little terrifying, because it’s not working out something, or healing, it’s just a joke– like what would happen if you got stuck in some sort of time loop, and isn’t it a totally sane way to react to think that it’s probably happening somewhere else too? Like that question about Groundhog’s Day: I mean, it’s funny, right? But also something else maybe?

One of the things in Remainder is that when the character thinks he’s getting one of his re-enactments right he has a tingling sensation, in his body. Has anyone explained this for real? Heavy Metals! I think what girls told each other is that it meant someone was walking over your grave, or your future grave, or where your future grave is supposed to be. It’s been happening to me a lot recently. I can’t figure out my skin this week. 

For the Re-enactor in Remainder though, as Zadie Smith says, “the feeling is addictive.” That whole essay is really good, which I am willing to stand behind with the force of upwards of twenty-something September 11th novels at my back and an extreme appreciation for the accessibility and keenness of Smith’s writing. Which, though, it took me two hours to get through because everything I read reminded me of something else. Nothing more so than this:

Remainder went to Vintage Books in America and picked up a Film Four production deal.

Take your book about repetition and make it into a movie about repetition that we can have repeated viewings of. These are the kind of things that move beyond producing knots in your stomach to making moebius strips of your intestines. 

 

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