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Forgetful Pleasures by Marta Figlerowicz

In art, books, literature, writers on October 4, 2012 at 01:00

From: Forgetful Pleasures: Michel Houellebecq’s Exciting Tale of Boredom by Marta Figlerowicz Michel Houellebecq’s Exciting Tale of Boredom, Boston Review, http://www.bostonreview.net

It’s become something of a joke: when you reach for a Michel Houellebecq novel, you brace yourself. For what? Shock, goes one pat answer. Boredom, goes the other.

Both are somewhat disingenuous. On the grand scale of literary excesses, Houellebecq’s stylistic and sexual offenses are trifling. He’s no Marquis de Sade, no D. H. Lawrence, no Joseph Conrad, no Robert Musil. Yet, together, these answers get at the heart of what might make you keep turning his pages no matter how much effort it takes.

Houellebecq’s prose shows a heightened self-awareness about excitement. His characters study stimulating pleasures—sex, usually—like a set of impossibly difficult equations. How many sexual acts equal a happy week, a happy year, a happy marriage? How many satisfying ones in sequence do you have stamina for? (The Elementary Particles: “By violently contracting the muscle and inhaling deeply just before orgasm, it was possible to avoid ejaculating. . . . it was a goal, something worth working toward.”)

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: Boston Review

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