Fifteen brilliant essays written over as many years provide a map of the sensibility and critical intelligence of Tom McCarthy, one of the most original and challenging novelists at work today. Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish explores a wide range of subjects, from the weather considered as a form of media, to the paintings of Gerhard Richter and the movies of David Lynch, to Patty Hearst as revolutionary sex goddess, to the still-radical implications of established masterpieces such as Ulysses (how do you write after it?), Tristram Shandy, and the unsung junky genius Alexander Trocchi’s darkly beautiful Cain’s Book. The longer “Recessional” examines the place of time in writing—how writing makes a new time of its own, a time apart from institutional time—while the startling “Nothing Will Have Taken Place” moves from Mallarmé and Don DeLillo to the ball mastery of Zidane to look at how art, whether that of a poet, novelist, or athlete, destroys given codes of meaning and behavior, returning them to play. Certain points of reference recur with dreamlike insistence—among them the artist Ed Ruscha’s Royal Road Test, a photographic documentation of the roadside debris of a Royal typewriter hurled from the window of a traveling car; the great blooms of jellyfish that are filling the oceans and gumming up the machinery of commerce and military domination—and the question throughout is: How can art explode the restraining conventions of so-called realism, whether aesthetic or political, to engage in the active reinvention of the world? tom mccarthy
Reading Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish is like receiving a map of all the space that art, literature, and culture have carved out for each other. . . . This is the kind of book that deepens your appreciation of the subjects you’ve previously encountered, and sends you to seek out the ones you haven’t.
—Gabe Habash, Publishers Weekly, starred review
Stimulating, intellectually exciting, and highly imaginative.
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
McCarthy’s fiction and nonfiction aim to skewer an ideology of authenticity that is fed and watered by a certain humanist conception of literature.
McCarthy’s crisp, clean prose is stimulating, his concepts original and his visual imagery powerful.
—Layla Sanai, The Independent