Monday, 16 June 2014

Rereading Houellebecq

A most extraordinary thing has happened. I have read Michel Houellebecq's 2012 novel The Map And the Territory for the third time. It's of particular significance because it's frequently the case that I do not even get past the first 50 pages of a book. For particularly bad books, that is. Houellebecq's novel has allowed me to metaphorically snuggle up with emotions and ideas that have made me happy in the past. In this way, the rereading of the novel for the third time is a kind of virtual comfort blanket where the overriding sentiment is a kind of gentle nostalgia, a fond regard on what has passed that stands in opposition to the bright exaltation that suffused my being when, in my childhood, I finished a particularly gripping novel. I still remember finishing the Tolkein saga, for example, and I can happily say that finishing The Map And the Territory for the third time was nothing like that. This time, I felt pleasantly sad, as though I was aware of having done something pleasant for the final time.

Or like looking back over the past week and thinking about all the wonderful television shows I have watched; the police dramas, the comedy shows, the news telecasts. All of them leave a residue on your soul that is not removed by future viewing, but which rather is somehow enhanced as in a palimpsest so that new things appear amid the old, things belonging to the old but which were not visible yesterday, and these things become visible in a muted and subtle arrangement.

Not unlike in the final works of Jed Martin, the hero of Houellebecq's novel.

It would be natural for me to go on and reread Houellebecq's 2005 novel The Possibility of An Island, a reading that could then segue into my finishing Kenzaburo Oe's Somersault, since they both deal with cults. It doesn't really matter which one I read because I will always be looking for the emotional effect that rereading The Map And the Territory produced in me; if I don't find it in one book I can always try another, and another ad infinitum. There are an unlimited number of books in the world to choose from. So I can go on picking up books, trying a few pages, then possibly putting them down again if the desired effect is not achieved. I can then class the successful candidates as "books to read when mildly depressed". Maybe I can make a new narrow focus blog dedicated to this one concern, and generate a following of mildly depressed people throughout the world. Then the blog can be turned into a book and become a bestseller.

That's something to look forward to, but it's unlikely, as the requisite dedication and application of my mental faculties on such a small area appears right now to be completely beyond me. I shall just go on shuffling through my book collection and scanning the new release tables of independent bookshops in search of the next book that will attune itself to my mood.

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