Just Finished Reading “Whatever” By Michel Houellebecq www.goodreads.com wanted to briefly comment on that, AND try out a new-to-me tweet lengthener (hehe) called twitplus.co.uk. @Twitlonger is OK, but I don’t like that you can’t go back and edit the text, although I’d be surprised if this one allows you to do that either.
Anyway this is the third Houellebecq I’ve read, after “The Elementary Particles” and “Platform.” Very short book, 140 pages, small pages, big print, more of a novella, no problems there, I generally like my novels short and sweet, since these years I’m prejudiced against novels anyway, in favour of Non-Fiction. I like to Learn Useful Skills and Information when I read.
So, I don’t always read Fiction Novels, but when I do, they’re usually thinly-veiled autobiographies of Broken Men. Houellebecq is a good transition (for me) from Bukowski. Imagine if Buk had not been beaten and rejected as much as a child, had not started drinking so soon, had completed a Science Degree instead of a English Associates, and had gotten a Secure Bigboy Boring Gov’t Bureaucrat Job several decades earlier, and only THEN became a bigtime drinker. Growing up in Modern France certainly individuates Houellebecq as well. Also he had more Mommy Issues, while Buk had Daddy Issues. Houelle’s protagonists, largely self-based, drink somewhat less than Bukowski/Chinaski. I think it’s actually Houellebecq himself where I’m getting this picture of him being a huge drinker, because in interviews he comes across as a gloomy, miserable, difficult, rude, confrontational drunk 4sshole. Needless to say, right in my wheelhouse.
Sorta wanted to record a few memorable passages from “Whatever” but I’m too lazy. GL Piggy has a blog post on the passage from this book on “The PAUPERIZATION” effected by the Sexual Free Market, a provocative passage indeed. But there’s a few others too:
After an intentionally excruciating and obnoxious reproduction of a florid short-story the narrator wrote as a youth (unreadably florid langauge), he discusses, for the first major time, about 60% through the novel no less, his bitterness regarding his most recent major lover, Veronique. It’s a nice non-PC description that would earn Houelle accusations of misogyny, as he is angry about the way things went down and he’s not afraid to say it. Of course I love anything Non-PC, especially the pseudo-misogyny of Male Anger. Because the Leftist PC Media likes to falsely portray Male Anger as Creepy and Misogynistic even when it’s perfectly justified, haha.
Anyway, The First-Person Narrator (I’m not sure he’s ever given a name!) talks about how Psychoanalysis DESTROYS people. How after his x-ladyfriend started seeing an Analyst (Freudian/Lacanian etc) she took a turn for the worst. He argues that Analysis causes people to Embrace and Celebrate the most Narcissisitic, Egotistical parts of themselves, turning them into soulless evil douchebags who alienate everyone who once cared about them.
I would have liked to see a whole book developed off this thesis, since despite some NonPCness of Freud, we must not forget that Lacanian Psychoanalytic figures largely into the production of Cultural Marxism in Western Universities, and probably dovetails nicely with The Celebration of Narcissistic, Amoral, Antimoral Feminism. I would have almost preferred to read a “prequel” to “Whatever” where Houelle shows Veronique’s changes in personality due to her analysis.
Moving on: another great passage: When speaking with a (non-Freudishian) psychiatrist or psychologist about 80% through, the Narr, in his typical way of speaking in the (still insightful and truthful!) Abstract to avoid confronting his own Personal Issues, speaks of how Bitterness is the defining characteristic of The World Today; then his shrink asks him when was the last time he had Sexual Relations, he says quite a while ago, she laughs and says “Well there’s your problem right there! Just go and get laid and all your problems will be solved!” He asks her if she will do him that service, she declines politely, and then switches him to another shrink.
Soon after he notices that most of the people in the (SPOILER!) psych ward with him are just like him: they’re not schizophrenic madmen, but rather otherwise normal adults driven to not-suitable-for-bigboy-work extremes of depression and anxiety because they don’t Get Enough Love. They’re not ranting about hearing voices, they’re just whacked out on sedatives 20 hours a day, catatonic.
This relates back to Narrator’s coworker, a 28-year-old virgin, who, despite his stalwart efforts – approaching women and making conversation regularly, going on “Under 25” Ski Retreats, going to the clubs, etc – cannot seal the deal simply because he hadn’t lost that last x pounds, and because he was born with a hideously ugly face, “like a buffalo toad”, hahaha.
Narrator cannot be bothered, he’s so far beyond that, of course, but as Narr reveals his bitterness over Veronique, we can see that Narr is more like coworker (Tisserand) than we first thought, he’s just more “detached” these days. But Narr brings Tisserand’s problem to its logical, violent – and possibly hilarious! – conclusion. The part where they are In The Club on Christmas Eve and Tisserand ogles the beautiful Young Girls is very effective. Of course the young girl is most attracted to The Exotic, Savage, Suave Half-Black Man because Houellebecq is A Horrible, Incorrigible Little Racist Rapist as well as a Misogynist.
A decent read, plus as a side character there’s an old Engineering Schoolmate of Narrator who became a Priest, and eventually slides into drunken Temptation and Loss Of Faith. Not bad.
Oh yeah. I really liked that the Narr worked for a Software Firm. Not sure what his actual job title was, systems engineer or software developer or something. He’s def less on the PeoplePerson side, more on the Technician side. There’s a few parts where he starts to expound on The Deeper Philosophy of Information Technology, then concludes that computers make him “want to puke” because in his career, he does nothing but produce ultimately useless extraneous information.
Not my favourite Houellebecq so far, but a short fast read and certainly not a bad place to start. For me it goes: Whatever < Elem. Particles < Platform. Houelle writes about the same stuff – alienation, decline of the west, capitalism, sex, women, multiculturalism, the meaning of life, – over and over again, but I think he gets progressively better at it as he keeps at it. I’ve tried to place Houellebecq on the how-much-does-he-love-capitalism scale, and it’s kinda complicated. On the surface it would seem he would LOVE it. But here in “Whatever” he states that it’s the most NATURAL form of economy for humans, but that it does not follow that it will naturally become the best for them. By drawing a comparison to the Sexual Marketplace, we can see that a Sexual Capitalist Free Market creates Vast inequalities, a cuttthroat, SuperDarwinian survival of the fittest where some men bang beautiful women as much as they want, and then you get Total Losers like the narrator and especially Tisserand. There are men who succeed both economically and sexually; there are those who fail at one but succeed at the other (these two main characters in this book); And, finally, those who fail at BOTH. Now THAT is a book I would like to see Houellebecq write some day, if I don’t.
I would not call Houellebecq an anticapitalist whatsoever, but I still wonder why he needs to describe its negative nuances so much. Perhaps because he so deeply believes that it’s vastly better than the alternative, however there are some pretty bad unintended consequences; however it’s his life’s mission to point out that Capitalism itself is Good, and to develop exactly HOW UNintended these consequences are?
I dunno. I like him because he’s not afraid to be a grumpy grouchy yet often hilarious critic of feminism and political correctness and the (post)modern west.