THE READERLY RESONANCE CHAMBER PRESENTS
THE MAP & THE TERRITORY
BY MICHEL HOUELLEBECQ
Just finished the last thirty wonderfully flowing and surprising
pages that end with the total domination of vegetation and then went back
to the first lines namedropping Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst and said aloud
"Ha, what a great book."
I love how clearly he writes, with such unexpected analysis/insight, exaggerated
generalizations asserted as truth (although toned down in this one -- not
as much potentially politically incorrect stuff in general, and certainly
not as much sex as the last two).
I purposefully read nothing about this one and only knew it had been called
an art world thriller -- which is half right. It's not a thriller and it's
not so much about the art world as it is about how the nature of human
industry relates to nature itself?
A must for fans and a good introduction, too. No one else does genre-mashup
semi-misanthropic nihilistic philosophy quite like him, although this did
at times seem like a much better rendition of what BEE did in Lunar
Park, genre-y literary fiction that includes the author as a character?
But this novel doesn't devolve into spare plot mechanics -- the detective
crimey bits are just as robust and typically swervy and "written" as the
stuff that seems more literary.
A nod, I think, to 2666 at one point but transposed to Thailand
and the murders dropped from 300 to 30.
Overall, an enjoyable weekend plus a few other sittings reading this. A
softer, gentler (even accounting for the vicious murder and assorted body
parts here and there), more mature Houellebecq, with his sharp, authentically
Franch eye now a little more on the end of life (and the end of authentic/traditional
French culture), although in this he spends 30 or so pages early on delivering
the main character's backstory, something I don't remember in his other
books, wherein characters are usually presented without much authorial
worry re: their histories, like in genre books.
Amazingly, there's even a strong-willed successful female character in
this one who's not treated as a sex object!
This book will probably be treated as news about contemporary (French and
international commerce) culture that'll stay news in the future, or maybe
like the old photos Jed films it'll fade with exposure to time and the
elements, like Balzac before him?
Houellebecq suggests that all he wants to do is account for what he sees,
aspiring to the patient vision of plants. What he sees he presents as an
inexact map of the thickety terrain of life, where all things change, except
for ever-changing nature and the criminal motivations of sex and greed.
Something like that.
Anyway, a real good book. Might go back and read The Elementary Particles.
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