Tom McCarthy is a British writer and conceptual artist.
He was born in 1969 and lives in central London. He attended New College, Oxford, where he studied English literature.
McCarthy’s debut novel Remainder was published in November 2005 by Paris-based art publisher Metronome Press. It was distributed through gallery and museum shops, but not in chain bookstores, and received widespread critical attention in the literary and mainstream press. Remainder established McCarthy as a contemporary champion of the experimental novel and heir to the postmodern stylists of the late 20th century, but it’s difficult to come up with a suitable thematic or stylistic precursor to his unclassifiably brilliant latest. The novel was re-published in a much larger UK print-run by the more conventional English publisher Alma Books (2006), and in the US by Vintage (2007), where it ranked as an Amazon top- 100 seller and entered the Los Angeles Times Bestseller list. In 2008 Remainder won the fourth annual Believer Book Award. It has since been translated into nine languages, and an adaptation for cinema is currently being undertaken.
A work of literary criticism by McCarthy, Tintin and the Secret of Literature, was released by Granta Books in 2006. In 2007 Men in Space was published. McCarthy has also written numerous stories, essays and articles on literature, philosophy and art for diverse publications, including the Observer, the Times Literary Supplement, the London Review of Books, Artforum and The New York Times, as well as in anthologies such as London from Punk to Blair (Reaktion Books), Theology and the Political (Duke University Press), The Milgram Experiment ( Jan van Eyck Press) and The Empty Page: Fiction Inspired by Sonic Youth (Serpent’s Tail). In 2008 an essay by McCarthy on Alain Robbe-Grillet, an author he has often expressed an admiration for, was published. Since 1999 McCarthy has operated as ‘General Secretary’ of a ‘semi-fictitious organisation’ called the International Necronautical Society (INS).
A blatant reprise of early-20th-century avant-gardes, the INS operates through publications, live events, media interventions, and more conventional art exhibitions.
In a 2007 interview with the website Bookninja, McCarthy explained the circumstances that led to the formation of the INS: «I was quite well integrated into the art world in London by the late nineties, and on top of that I for some time had an interest in the modes and procedures of early-20-century avant-gardes like the Futurists and Surrealists_their semi-corporate, semi-political structures of committees and subcommittees, their use of manifestos, proclamations and denunciations.» Despite his initial claim that the INS was ‘not an art project, McCarthy has accepted invitations to show work in his capacity as INS General Secretary at art institutions around the world, including Tate Britain and the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, Moderna Museet Stockholm, the Drawing Center in New York, Kunstwerke Berlin, Hartware MedienKunstVerein Dortmund, and Substation Gallery Singapore. The INS has been described by Art Monthly as «a platform for fantastically mobile thinking.» McCarthy has also made artworks outside of his role as INS General Secretary. In 2005 he exhibited, at The Western Front Gallery, Vancouver, the multimedia installation piece Greenwich Degree Zero, produced in collaboration with artist Rod Dickinson, which (in a tribute to Joseph Conrad’s 1907 novel The Secret Agent), depicted the Greenwich Observatory burning to the ground. In 2006 he collaborated with French artist Loris Gréaud to produce an «Ontic Helpline» for a fictitious «Thanatalogical Corporation». In 2010, McCarthy wrote the script for Johan Grimonprez’s feature film Double Take. The script consists of short story, loosely based on Borges’s «August 25, 1983», in which Hitchcock meets his double on the set of one of his films. McCarthy has also tutored and lectured at various institutions including the Architectural Association, Central Saint Martins School of Art, Columbia University, and the Royal College of Art. He has taught a course on “Catastrophe” with Marko Daniel at the London Consortium.
He was the recipient of the Windham– Campbell Literature Prize in 2013.