The Novels of David Mitchell and Tom McCarthy

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  • Title: The Novels of David Mitchell and Tom McCarthy: Depictions of Beings in Time—Origami or Cicatrix?
  • Author(s): Sean Hooks
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: The Arts in Society
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review
  • Keywords: Anthropocene, Literary Novels, Arts Theories
  • Volume: 13
  • Issue: 1
  • Year: 2018
  • ISSN: 1833-1866 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2473-5809 (Online)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/1833-1866/CGP/v13i01/1-10
  • Citation: Hooks, Sean. 2018. "The Novels of David Mitchell and Tom McCarthy: Depictions of Beings in Time—Origami or Cicatrix?." The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review 13 (1): 1-10. doi:10.18848/1833-1866/CGP/v13i01/1-10.
  • Extent: 10 pages

Abstract

This article is an examination of the nature of the contemporary novel as presented in the works of two particular authors, David Mitchell and Tom McCarthy. Mitchell’s novelic interpretations relentlessly pursue a global, cosmopolitan, entwined, and enfolded conception of existence. His fictional worlds are postmodern empires of swirl and connection, interwovenness, and entanglement. Plots and characters dovetail together within individual novels and sprawl across the author’s oeuvre. Mitchell crafts meticulous mazes and spiraling monuments to the passage of time as a diverse and pluralistic bricolage, imbricating past, present, and future. Tom McCarthy, Mitchell’s peer and countryman, presents almost the exact opposite. While maintaining an interest in the variegated capacities of time in an era of instantaneity and data saturation, McCarthy views the speeding up of paradigm shifts and its impact on humanity through a much narrower aperture. His perspective is one of singularity, an onanistic retro-modernism. His novels are characterized by an implementation of the anthropocene as linked to solitude, war, damage, torture, and insularity, a referentialism that turns consistently inward every bit as much as Mitchell’s does outward. If David Mitchell’s anthropocenic time domains are maximalist, grand, and architectonic, Tom McCarthy’s are minimalist, isolated, and inorganic, the world seen not as elaborate origami but as apportioner of scars and cicatrices. Mitchell’s purview is essentially earnest, hopeful, traditionally humanistic, based around notions of convergence, pattern, connection, and resonance; human beings as a landscape, a species. McCarthy’s perspective formulates a philosophy of people as remote, disconnected, patternless, and chaotic, immune to attempts at scrying and cognition, humanity unable to encompass and ascertain the consequences of its actions, and the long-term outcomes of our social actions as unknowable qualities.