Tom McCarthy (writer)

British writer

Tom McCarthy (born 1969) is an English novelist, writer, and artist.


  • About the accident itself I can say very little. Almost nothing. It involved something falling from the sky. Technology. Parts, bits. That's it, really: all I can divulge. Not much, I know.
    It's not that I'm being shy. It's just that—well, for one, I don't even remember the event. It's a blank: a white slate, a black hole. I have vague images, half-impressions: of being, or having been—or, more precisely, being about to be—hit; blue light; railings; lights of other colours; being held above some kind of tray or bed. But who's to say my traumatized mind didn't just make them up, or pull them out from somewhere else, some other slot, and stick them there to plug the gap—the crater—that the accident had blown? Minds are versatile and wily things. Real chancers.
    • Ch. 1.
  • Surplus matter. I'd forgotten all about that phrase, those classes—even before the accident, I mean. After the accident I forgot everything. It was as though my memories were pigeons and the accident a big noise that had scared them off. They fluttered back eventually—but when they did, their hierarchy had changed, and some that had had crappy places before ended up with better ones: I remembered them more clearly; they seemed more important.
    • Ch. 6.
  • Forensic procedure is an art form, nothing less. No, I'll go further: it's higher, more refined, than any art form. Why? Because it's real. Take just one aspect of it—say the diagrams: with all their outlines, arrows and shaded blocks they look like abstract paintings, avant-garde ones from the last century—dances of shapes and flows as delicate and skilful as the markings on butterflies' wings. But they're not abstract at all. They're records of atrocities. Each line, each figure, every angle—the ink itself vibrates with an almost intolerable violence, darkly screaming from the silence of white paper: something has happened here, someone has died.
    • Ch. 11.
  • People never stop to think about these basic facts when they watch wars and cop shows on the television. People take too much for granted. Each time a gun is fired the whole history of engineering comes into play. Of politics, too: war, assassination, revolution, terror. Guns aren't just history's props and agents: they're history itself, spinning alternate futures in their chamber, hurling the present from their barrel, casting aside the empty shells of the past.
    • Ch. 11.
  • It struck me as I waited that all great enterprises are about logistics. Not genius or inspiration or flights of imagination, skill or cunning, but logistics. Building pyramids or landing spacecraft on Jupiter or invading whole continents or painting divine scenes over the roofs of chapels: logistics.
    • Ch. 11.
  • In the part of the night where it's quietest, around three or four o'clock, I started wondering where this black man's soul had disappeared to as it left his body. His thoughts, impressions, memories, whatever: the background noise we all have in our head that stops us from forgetting we're alive. It had to go somewhere: it couldn't just vaporize—it must have gushed, trickled or dripped onto some surface, stained it somehow. Everything must leave some kind of mark.
    • Ch. 11.
  • It was like a quilt, a handmade, patterned quilt laid out for this man to take his final steps across and then lie down and die on: a quilted deathbed. It struck me that the world, or chance, or maybe death itself if you can speak of such a thing, must have loved this man in some way to prepare for him such a richly textured fabric to gather and wrap him up in.
    • Ch. 12.
  • Poor Naz. He wanted everything to be perfect, neat, wanted all matter organized and filed away so that it wasn't mess. He had to learn too: matter's what makes us alive—the bitty flow, the scar tissue, signature of the world's very first disaster and promissory note guaranteeing its last. Try to iron it out at your peril.
    • Ch. 16.
Wikipedia has an article about: