Whatever

by Michel Houellebecq, Paul Hammond | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 1852425849 Global Overview for this book
Registered by BookGroupMan of Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on 2/22/2007
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3 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by BookGroupMan from Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on Thursday, February 22, 2007
£1 pound cheap from a remainders bookshop sale - I was very restrained and only bought 3 books ;)

Journal Entry 2 by BookGroupMan from Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on Monday, July 23, 2007
(21/07) In one of those strange coincidences, the Ipswich ‘splinter’ Book Group were talking about the dearth of books on depression – biography or fiction - by male writers, and one pops to the top of my reading stack!

What starts as an ultra-cynical and scathing book about office & sexual politics, the boredom & emptiness of modern life and the IT industry(!?), becomes quite a touching catalogue of a man’s descent into depression, his quiet breakdown and road to recovery. Along the way Houellebecq pays homage to Camus with a senseless murder on a beach…almost; the blurb says, “L’Etranger for the info generation”.

Along this journey in a short 155 pages, MH has some very funny and insightful things to say about…

IT and the ‘information industry’. ‘My entire work as a computer expert consists of adding to the data…It has no meaning…The world has a need for many things, bar more information’.

Women and psychoanalysis, ‘A woman fallen into the hands of the psychoanalysts becomes absolutely unfit for use…Under the pretext of reconstructing the ego [psychoanalysts] proceed to a scandalous destruction of the human being.’

Capitalism and sexual activity as parallel societal differentiators, ‘…unrestrained economic liberalism and sexual liberation [both] produce phenomena of absolute pauperization.’ Hence the sorry tale of the incredibly ugly Tisserand.

Cows on heat (the cover picture), go from a passive ruminant state of ‘profound existential oneness’ to the extreme agitation caused by the ‘inexorable functioning of genetic programming’, she, the Breton cow, ‘…contracts and twitches under the painful effect of an assuredly powerful desire.’

And lastly, depression. When the unnamed narrator is diagnosed with depression, he is moderately content, ‘Officially, then, I’m in a depression. The formula seems a happy one to me. It’s not that I feel tremendously low; it’s rather that the world around me appears high.’


Journal Entry 3 by BookGroupMan at Caffe Nero IP1 book-crossing zone in Ipswich, Suffolk United Kingdom on Friday, September 07, 2007

Released 12 yrs ago (9/8/2007 UTC) at Caffe Nero IP1 book-crossing zone in Ipswich, Suffolk United Kingdom

WILD RELEASE NOTES:

RELEASE NOTES:

Taking along to the BookCrossing meet-up to share or leave on the Caffe Nero shelves

Journal Entry 4 by smallbluepebble from Ilford, Greater London United Kingdom on Saturday, September 08, 2007
The odd title, surreal cover pic, Stuck-on message from BookGroupMan- "1001 books to read before you die (after that it's too late!)"- and quote from The Independent- "funny, terrifying and nauseating"- all convinced me that I couldn't not pick this one up from the table. A long tedious journey home, via rail replacement buses and trains which didn't stop where I expected them to, was greatly improved by the first 50 pages of this strange book. I'm still not sure quite what to make of it... more later.

Journal Entry 5 by smallbluepebble from Ilford, Greater London United Kingdom on Saturday, October 13, 2007
Sadly, this book went rapidly downhill. I was relieved to reach its tedious non-ending. Surreal literature walks a very thin line between refreshing originality and irritating nonsense. As you might be able to tell, I feel this book falls on the irritating side of that line. Though the main character was supposedly depressed, his behaviour seemed psychotic. There was no true insight into his frame of mind. Emotionally, I felt no empathy for his fragile condition. In fact, his self-centered burblings just made me wish the book, and his angst, would be over as soon as possible.

Journal Entry 6 by smallbluepebble from Ilford, Greater London United Kingdom on Saturday, November 24, 2007
This book is off on its travels...

Journal Entry 7 by Wordsnark on Sunday, December 09, 2007
I have just received this from smallbluepebble, and I intend to read it and journal soon. Thanks from this side of the ocean to that.

Journal Entry 8 by Wordsnark on Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Yes! 'Whatever' was all I expected: like shaving with weasels. The first part of the story was deliberately indifferent, the narrator apparently without affect. This gives a sort of subversive neutrality to the savage satire that follows.

I was especially fond of the mockery Houellebecq makes of the excessive intellectualizations of French novelists and social theorists, in particular Michel Foucault. Houellebecq seems more respectful, almost affectionate, towards Camus and an absurd condition. I confess that some of the social commentary make me groan, or laugh in recognition.

Looking backward ten+ years [the book was first published in 1994], it seems history has confirmed his sharp penetrations of the order of things. When Houellebecq jabbed at culture, he exploded it with a disgusting splatter like a festering boil.

I would not recommend 'Whatever' to anyone, largely because it might make them nervous and suspicious of me. But for those who can find their way to it, reading 'Whatever' can come as a strengthening release, like arising from a sickbed.

Thanks BookGroupMan and smallbluepebble! [I am going to make the book available; but as I said, the next reader will have to seek it out.]

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