Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish

Perhaps only in a Tom McCarthy essay would profound philosophical insight be pulled from both William Faulkner and M.C. Hammer. Such is the brainy, playful and always subversive power of McCarthy's first collection, Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish.

McCarthy (Remainder) is a novelist and ardent defender of the avant-garde. This collection includes 15 of his most provocative essays, many of which have appeared in publications like the Believer and London Review of Books. Almost every essay involves the interpretation of art and literature--classics, pop music and movies sucked into the grind of his intellect. Blended with an encyclopedic knowledge of modern science, especially physics, McCarthy's writing branches out and electrifies new conceptions of reality, much like the tentacles of a jellyfish.

A recurrent theme in the collection is that of the "recessional," or what McCarthy describes as a perceptual space between normal measures of time, between life's inevitable pretenses, where the art of fiction finds raw experience. This is the heart of artistic modernity, McCarthy concludes: a private space always incomplete in its becoming, resisting categorization. If McCarthy relies too much on postmodern skepticism at times--that is, a reflexive aversion to logical positivism--he makes up for it with the sheer, careening energy of his prose, at once wordy and incisive. He's an adept stylist, in the vein of Nabokov, and never fails to deliver dazzling twists of language and meaning. Each essay impresses with the author's preternatural intelligence. Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish will entice lovers of art and literature. --Scott Neuffer, freelance journalist, poet and fiction author

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