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Why incels should read Michel Houellebecq Sometimes we need to wallow in despair

Credit: Joel Sage/AFP/Getty


August 25, 2023   6 mins

When I was younger and going through some particularly unhappy break-up or other, I’d relieve my tumultuous feelings by rewatching The World At War on telly. Sometimes it feels good to have confirmation that things really are as bad as they seem. Michel Houellebecq’s breakthrough novel Atomised, published 25 years ago this week, has provided a similarly cathartic service for a generation of disaffected men.

Originally entitled Les Particules Élementaires, the book’s first appearance sent the French literary scene into a frenzy; selling thousands of copies, sparking many an op-ed, and causing the owner of a literary prize awarded to the book to withdraw his patronage. International publishers scented a transferable succès de scandale. The designer of the UK translation put a skeletal nymphet on the cover, insolently facing the camera dressed only in her knickers.

The implication to the reader was that he was purchasing a combination of hot sex and cool Gallic hipsterism in literary form. No greater joke has ever been played on the British novel-buying male. In fact, Atomised presents a sexual wasteland full of neurotics, narcissists, and malformed losers. And, much like its anorak-wearing author, no character in the book possesses any cool whatsoever.

Atomised is the story of two half-brothers, Michel and Bruno. Michel is a robotic rationalist, constitutionally unable to form meaningful human relationships. In his professional life as a biologist, he searches for a way to eliminate the mess of concupiscence from the human condition. Bruno, on the other hand, is a monomaniacal sexual obsessive, restlessly questing through brothels, orgies and naturist colonies for a degree of satiation he never finds.

For Bruno, there are only two kinds of women: the enticing unavailable ones that make him feel inadequate and tormented; or the ones he can have, that make him feel bored and detached. For both brothers, moments of tender love and compassion from women are fleeting, and each is psychologically unfit to receive them. The immediate cause of all this is their monstrous hippy mother who — “believing that maternity was something every woman should experience” — decides to keep the accidental human by-products of her trysts, but leaves the nurture of them to inadequate others. The distal cause, meanwhile, is the fall of Western civilisation.

The book is replete with failed parenting relationships, failed marriages and failed erections. Humans are animals upon whom nature has played a cruel trick, bestowing them with socially malleable cravings that endlessly distress them and which capitalism exploits. Suffering is everywhere and, in the absence of the Judeo-Christian framework, has no meaning. Death is feared pathologically. Sexual promiscuity is the only permissible way left for males to engage in competition with peers, but the prizes are ultimately terrible. Pneumatic young women gain tenuous social capital from acting like sex objects. Ageing female bodies literally have no point anymore, and their owners know it.

Since the book’s publication in 1998, patterns of critical evaluation have had plenty of time to settle. And many of these have tended to treat it, along with the wider oeuvre within which it sits, as containing a serious political message, or as otherwise having something to teach readers.

Understandably, conservative and “post-liberal” thinkers often relate enthusiastically to the Houellebecquian universe as one that tests post-1968 liberal values to complete destruction. In this reading, Houellebecq is primarily demonstrating the awful downsides of the intrusion of the capitalist market into the realm of sexual reproduction. It’s certainly true that some passages — describing the advent of abortion and the pill, the rise of individualism, and the collapse of the family against the predations of the market — might have come straight from the pen of a post-liberal polemicist (at least, if he was a bit drunk).

But still, Houellebecq is not proselytising for a return to the values of the past. He doesn’t want us to go back to some prelapsarian age — partly because he thinks it is too late anyway, but also because it all sounds absolutely terrible. In Atomised, he lampoons the alternative:

“You are at one with nature, have plenty of fresh air and a couple of fields to plough (the number and size of which are strictly fixed by hereditary principle). Now and then you kill a boar; you fuck occasionally, mostly with your wife, whose role is to give birth to children; said children grow up to take their place in the same ecosystem. Eventually, you catch something serious and you’re history.”

The extent to which Houellebecq is personally invested in the hyper-liberalised society he describes in his novels was illustrated recently by the revelation that he inadvertently participated in a Dutch porn film (his stated excuse being that he was “depressed at the time of signing the agreement and had drunk several glasses of wine”). This version of Houellebecq is no austere conservative reactionary, but rather a sad-eyed, impulse-driven Mr Bean figure — drunkenly importuning female interviewers, making extravagant public shrines to his dead corgi, and starring as himself in a comic film about his own fictional kidnap. Liberalism, like love, makes fools of us all eventually.

Even so, there is clearly something right about the conservative critical approach. Progressive responses to Houellebecq are much less convincing. The most predictable of these would diminish the work simply on the grounds that it doesn’t sufficiently distance itself from the misogyny, homophobia, and Islamophobia it often represents. On this view, the reader can still perhaps learn something from Atomised, but only as a cautionary tale — showing us the origins and outlook of the much-reviled incel mindset, for instance. In the same vein we are told that Houellebecq’s subsequent works act as prophylactics against Right-populism and Islamophobia, since they understand these things from the inside, and are thus useful to the Left-liberal who wishes to know how his enemy thinks.

Atomised is indeed often misogynistic, though much of the time it seems to stem from a more general misanthropy than from any specially targeted animus against women. In any case, with a mother as poisonous as Houellebecq’s — on whom the character in Atomised is loosely based — surely the man should be let off the hook a bit. In 2008, aged 83, she gave a gloriously disinhibited interview describing her son as an “evil, stupid little bastard”, “a liar, an imposter, a parasite” and “a petit arriviste ready to do absolutely anything for money and fame”. (She also offered future biographers an epigraph laconically summing up Houellebecq’s output as a whole: “What’s all this stuff about an old chemist who wonders if his secretary is having a wank?”)

A more charitable — in fact, quite hilariously optimistic — approach, also coming from progressive critics has been to try and recuperate Houellebecq as a previously unrecognised ally to Left-liberal causes. For instance, it has been speculated that he is actually offering a useful critique of hegemonic masculinity or even “queering” heterosexuality outright. Touching as it is to see the keenness of the academic to reconcile the demands of his two perennial masters — a love of edgy transgression, and the desire to write only what a Guardian reader might approve of — this strategy is doomed. The same writer who describes a commune dedicated to personal development as full of “deranged old lefties who were probably all HIV positive” is no secret friend of Judith Butler.

There are always things to learn from as multifaceted a novelist as this, whether or not he intends to teach you anything. Still, I prefer to treat a book like Atomised, not (only) as a rich seam of information to be mined about the zeitgeist, but more as an enveloping mood. And Christ, that mood is bleak.

Houellebecq invites you to wallow in despair at the state of society; to sink to the depths with no hope of air. He is in the tradition of great pessimistic writers: Beckett, Baudelaire, Sartre. He may have a diagnosis for social malaise but there is no hint of a cure here. All you can do is face the darkness, laugh occasionally at the absurdity of it all, and distract yourself by having appalling sex with people who vaguely revolt you.

Some censorious types worry that incels might be reading Houellebecq, but I tend to think he is exactly who incels should be reading. For when you suspect that your life is sapped of all prospects of success, sexual or otherwise, it can be reassuring to read a book that confirms your experience. As Schopenhauer — another pessimist with a terrible relationship with his mother, and a stated inspiration for Houellebecq — once wrote: “Life is a business which does not cover the costs.” For those men who have found that the sexual revolution did not cover their costs, reading Atomised must come as a relatively harmless salve to the anguished mind.

The term “hopeless” covers two possible emotional states: one where specific hopes suddenly die, to your great disappointment, or one where you haven’t experienced anything as proactive as hope for a long time. The first involves mental turmoil; the second can feel grimly peaceful and reassuring. As another great philosopher, Michael Frayn, makes his headmaster character say in the film Clockwise: “It’s not the despair, Laura. I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.” Pessimist writers such as Houellebecq can take us to this second place. Depending on how churned up you originally felt, the trip can sometimes feel like a holiday.

But there’s another more positive function that pessimistic writing also serves. In ordinary life, it’s easy to confuse a temporary mood with a fact about the world, and vice versa. Feelings of hopelessness tend to settle like dust on social landscapes, seeming as if they have always lived there, and infusing present and future with heaviness and gloom. Trying to avoid this impression by denying it or distracting oneself doesn’t necessarily make it go away.

There’s a lot of doomsaying in the air at the moment, and it seems to be catching. But sometimes, with despair, you have to go down to come up. Sometimes, as if in a Buddhist death meditation, you have to imaginatively inhabit your miserable vision to its utmost, without deviation. For me, this is primarily what Atomised does. It confronts you with the purest synthesis of a despairing take on liberal society, and make you live there for a while, drinking it in. And after a while, the feelings of despair start to lose their power, and you start to realise that hopelessness is only a mood after all. It’s not the world — it’s you.


Kathleen Stock is an UnHerd columnist and a co-director of The Lesbian Project.
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John Riordan
John Riordan
8 months ago

Kathleen Stock really can write, cant she? As ever, immensely enjoyable.

My own view is though, I think there’s more behind the tide of hopelessness than it merely being a feeling: you have to ask why that feeling exists and, more crucially, why so many other people share it. I believe that there is a real external effect causing it, and I trace it back to the financial crisis and the gradual realisation that although immediate economic meltdown had been averted, the price of that avoidance was to be paid gradually over time by the large majority of people who had had no hand in causing it – ie voters, taxpayers and the middle and working classes.

It is a distraction to blame either bankers or politicians for the colossal f***up that the financial crisis represents: they were both at fault, and more to the point they were both at fault in the known, mutually shared knowledge of each other’s complicity in rigging financial markets for mutual gain. The bankers and politicians are the only ones who have not paid the price for this, and the rest of us have become aware of this via a gradual realisation that our futures were sold off in backroom deals because we were the only ones not present when the deals were done.

I have come to believe that all the nonsense we’re having to listen to these days – wokery, radical trans ideology, eco-zealotry, alt-right conspiracy theories etc – these are all reactions to the confiscation of hope by a political class that put itself before the majority it is supposed to serve.

Last edited 8 months ago by John Riordan
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Perhaps that external effect is not of this material world.

John Riordan
John Riordan
8 months ago

I am not sure what you’re referring to, but I am pretty certain that the effect is entirely of this material world, and it’s no mystery either.

John Riordan
John Riordan
8 months ago

I am not sure what you’re referring to, but I am pretty certain that the effect is entirely of this material world, and it’s no mystery either.

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
8 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Well argued there John.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
8 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Have there not been multiple varying successive shocks since the 2008 Crash? It changed our world for sure and began the atomisation of the ruling elite from the people (nod to Michel there). But the lockdown catastrophe is surely as destructive and impactful. And then there are the quieter but devastating forces of cultural change; the elevation of the progressive credos like greviance victimhood entitlement, the decline of Christianity and the spirit of enterprise?

Dark Horse
Dark Horse
8 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Progressive credos like grievance victimhood entitlement which the universities seem heavily invested in serve a very useful distraction from genuine economic suffering and hopelessness. The disastrous state of the housing market depriving increasing generations of any hope of home ownership. The miserable state of the job market offering more and more zero hours gig jobs and fewer and fewer genuine jobs with permanence and decent prospects.
Whole generations apart from a lucky few have nothing to look forward to.
Instead of addressing this issue the universities have gone down a ridiculous and largely irrelevant cul de sac into which the younger ones pour all their rage and frustration thereby letting the political class off the hook.
XR, Just Stop Oil, trans rights – these are all empty distractions that play into the hands of the powerful by keeping youngsters distracted from the real issues – a broken housing system, a broken education system and a broken jobs market.

Dark Horse
Dark Horse
8 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Progressive credos like grievance victimhood entitlement which the universities seem heavily invested in serve a very useful distraction from genuine economic suffering and hopelessness. The disastrous state of the housing market depriving increasing generations of any hope of home ownership. The miserable state of the job market offering more and more zero hours gig jobs and fewer and fewer genuine jobs with permanence and decent prospects.
Whole generations apart from a lucky few have nothing to look forward to.
Instead of addressing this issue the universities have gone down a ridiculous and largely irrelevant cul de sac into which the younger ones pour all their rage and frustration thereby letting the political class off the hook.
XR, Just Stop Oil, trans rights – these are all empty distractions that play into the hands of the powerful by keeping youngsters distracted from the real issues – a broken housing system, a broken education system and a broken jobs market.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
8 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

The writer incorrectly assumes that all Incels are the love market’s loser. It’s not so. There are many young men out there for whom opportunities abound, but who are tired of, even disgusted by, cheap and easy sex. Their dates are known to get red faced angry at this show or respect. “I’m not that kind of man,” wins them at least self respect.

John Riordan
John Riordan
8 months ago

Interesting perspective – I haven’t heard of this myself – but surely the label “incel” cannot apply to such men, because their celibacy is actually voluntary? They’d be v-cels or something like that?

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
8 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Good point.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
8 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Maybe this should be said too. I have read most if not all of MH’s books. Elementary Particles reveals to us two men for whom finding a woman to love is, to say the least, not so easy. Even if the perfect one is presented to them. Many have asked MH if he is not covertly Catholic. We can say too of course that the modern world is emphatically anti-Catholic. The young men I mentioned are searching for wives. The “wife”has gone out of style? Is this not the loss they feel?

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
8 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Good point.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
8 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Maybe this should be said too. I have read most if not all of MH’s books. Elementary Particles reveals to us two men for whom finding a woman to love is, to say the least, not so easy. Even if the perfect one is presented to them. Many have asked MH if he is not covertly Catholic. We can say too of course that the modern world is emphatically anti-Catholic. The young men I mentioned are searching for wives. The “wife”has gone out of style? Is this not the loss they feel?

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
8 months ago

We’re all that kind of man. Until we think we’re in love, of course.

John Riordan
John Riordan
8 months ago

Interesting perspective – I haven’t heard of this myself – but surely the label “incel” cannot apply to such men, because their celibacy is actually voluntary? They’d be v-cels or something like that?

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
8 months ago

We’re all that kind of man. Until we think we’re in love, of course.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Houellebecq and his characters were doing their miserable best (?) for at least a decade before the financial crisis, eg, Atomised was published in 1998.

Houellebecq’s ‘thing’ is not to do with the 2008 financial crisis.

John Riordan
John Riordan
8 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

I think you miss the point: I’m arguing that modern mass-disaffection stems from the after-effects of the financial crisis. Whatever Houellebecq wrote about a decade prior to the financial crisis isn’t causally relevant to contemporary social tensions, even if there may be obvious parallels.

Last edited 8 months ago by John Riordan
Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

You’re missing the point that after-effects don’t occur ten years before the event they are said to be an effect of.

Last edited 8 months ago by Dumetrius
Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

You’re missing the point that after-effects don’t occur ten years before the event they are said to be an effect of.

Last edited 8 months ago by Dumetrius
John Riordan
John Riordan
8 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

I think you miss the point: I’m arguing that modern mass-disaffection stems from the after-effects of the financial crisis. Whatever Houellebecq wrote about a decade prior to the financial crisis isn’t causally relevant to contemporary social tensions, even if there may be obvious parallels.

Last edited 8 months ago by John Riordan
Studio Largo
Studio Largo
8 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

‘Twas ever thus. Which is why putting all the blame on our putative leaders is more than a little bit of a cop out. If people feel rootless and devoid of any real hope how much is that their own fault for settling for the ephemeral endless BS that’s all over the internet and mass media and not making the effort to find something with some actual depth to it?

Ron Wigley
Ron Wigley
8 months ago
Reply to  Studio Largo

Exactly, the Internet can’t replicate human relationships, it’s not a substitute for a walk in the mountains, or for romantic love, or the love of anything else other than oneself.

Ron Wigley
Ron Wigley
8 months ago
Reply to  Studio Largo

Exactly, the Internet can’t replicate human relationships, it’s not a substitute for a walk in the mountains, or for romantic love, or the love of anything else other than oneself.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
8 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

You make some good arguments, but your political / economic case goes nowhere near explaining the doom mongering and nihilism that is so fashionable in western societies. After all, the idea that we lived in some pleasant social democratic state in the 1970s say, is absurd. Maybe there has been something of an economic down turn since 2008, but people are vastly better off – and most of us really know it – than we would have been 50, 100 years ago.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Perhaps that external effect is not of this material world.

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
8 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Well argued there John.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
8 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Have there not been multiple varying successive shocks since the 2008 Crash? It changed our world for sure and began the atomisation of the ruling elite from the people (nod to Michel there). But the lockdown catastrophe is surely as destructive and impactful. And then there are the quieter but devastating forces of cultural change; the elevation of the progressive credos like greviance victimhood entitlement, the decline of Christianity and the spirit of enterprise?

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
8 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

The writer incorrectly assumes that all Incels are the love market’s loser. It’s not so. There are many young men out there for whom opportunities abound, but who are tired of, even disgusted by, cheap and easy sex. Their dates are known to get red faced angry at this show or respect. “I’m not that kind of man,” wins them at least self respect.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Houellebecq and his characters were doing their miserable best (?) for at least a decade before the financial crisis, eg, Atomised was published in 1998.

Houellebecq’s ‘thing’ is not to do with the 2008 financial crisis.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
8 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

‘Twas ever thus. Which is why putting all the blame on our putative leaders is more than a little bit of a cop out. If people feel rootless and devoid of any real hope how much is that their own fault for settling for the ephemeral endless BS that’s all over the internet and mass media and not making the effort to find something with some actual depth to it?

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
8 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

You make some good arguments, but your political / economic case goes nowhere near explaining the doom mongering and nihilism that is so fashionable in western societies. After all, the idea that we lived in some pleasant social democratic state in the 1970s say, is absurd. Maybe there has been something of an economic down turn since 2008, but people are vastly better off – and most of us really know it – than we would have been 50, 100 years ago.

John Riordan
John Riordan
8 months ago

Kathleen Stock really can write, cant she? As ever, immensely enjoyable.

My own view is though, I think there’s more behind the tide of hopelessness than it merely being a feeling: you have to ask why that feeling exists and, more crucially, why so many other people share it. I believe that there is a real external effect causing it, and I trace it back to the financial crisis and the gradual realisation that although immediate economic meltdown had been averted, the price of that avoidance was to be paid gradually over time by the large majority of people who had had no hand in causing it – ie voters, taxpayers and the middle and working classes.

It is a distraction to blame either bankers or politicians for the colossal f***up that the financial crisis represents: they were both at fault, and more to the point they were both at fault in the known, mutually shared knowledge of each other’s complicity in rigging financial markets for mutual gain. The bankers and politicians are the only ones who have not paid the price for this, and the rest of us have become aware of this via a gradual realisation that our futures were sold off in backroom deals because we were the only ones not present when the deals were done.

I have come to believe that all the nonsense we’re having to listen to these days – wokery, radical trans ideology, eco-zealotry, alt-right conspiracy theories etc – these are all reactions to the confiscation of hope by a political class that put itself before the majority it is supposed to serve.

Last edited 8 months ago by John Riordan
Ian Johnston
Ian Johnston
8 months ago

Stock really is a magisterial writer.

Her essays in Unherd alone “cover the costs”.

Ian Johnston
Ian Johnston
8 months ago

Stock really is a magisterial writer.

Her essays in Unherd alone “cover the costs”.

RM Parker
RM Parker
8 months ago

I often think that many of Houellebecq’s detractors miss the blindingly obvious humour in his writing – viscerally repellent it often may be, but he doesn’t seem to have any favourites and I’m left with the impression that he reserves his sharpest barbs for himself.
There are also plenty of people who slate him without having read any of his work. Their loss.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
8 months ago
Reply to  RM Parker

A form of self-cutting with words?

RM Parker
RM Parker
8 months ago

Possibly. I certainly don’t think he has many illusions about himself or the society he inhabits, and biting satire may well be his way of dealing with the mess. Or, to quote from Omar Khayyam (Fitzgerald translation): “Make Game of that which makes as much of thee”.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  RM Parker

Great quote!

RM Parker
RM Parker
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

One of my favourites!

RM Parker
RM Parker
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

One of my favourites!

Richard Webster
Richard Webster
8 months ago
Reply to  RM Parker

In a word, self deprecation.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  RM Parker

Great quote!

Richard Webster
Richard Webster
8 months ago
Reply to  RM Parker

In a word, self deprecation.

RM Parker
RM Parker
8 months ago

Possibly. I certainly don’t think he has many illusions about himself or the society he inhabits, and biting satire may well be his way of dealing with the mess. Or, to quote from Omar Khayyam (Fitzgerald translation): “Make Game of that which makes as much of thee”.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago
Reply to  RM Parker

Well said.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
8 months ago
Reply to  RM Parker

I quite agree. Maybe it’s me, but I found Atomised riotously funny a lot of the time and like a kind of deranged emetic. When he’s on a destructive rant, it’s brilliantly cathartic and entertaining.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
8 months ago
Reply to  RM Parker

A form of self-cutting with words?

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago
Reply to  RM Parker

Well said.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
8 months ago
Reply to  RM Parker

I quite agree. Maybe it’s me, but I found Atomised riotously funny a lot of the time and like a kind of deranged emetic. When he’s on a destructive rant, it’s brilliantly cathartic and entertaining.

RM Parker
RM Parker
8 months ago

I often think that many of Houellebecq’s detractors miss the blindingly obvious humour in his writing – viscerally repellent it often may be, but he doesn’t seem to have any favourites and I’m left with the impression that he reserves his sharpest barbs for himself.
There are also plenty of people who slate him without having read any of his work. Their loss.

Peter Kwasi-Modo
Peter Kwasi-Modo
8 months ago

I’ve read and enjoyed several of Michel Houellebecq’s books. There is one aspect of his self-appointed role as enfant terrible of French letters (I couldn’t resist that one) that I especially like. He tweaks the tail of the French intelligentsia by spotting the issue that they have swept under the carpet and making that issue the subject matter of his next novel, thereby ensuring notoriety, celebrity and a reputation for prescience. But it never occurred to me that his books might be shelved under “self-help”. If you think of him as an essayist, rather than a novelist, then he is a kind of anti-Montaigne, writing more to discomfort the intellectuals than to comfort the punters. I can hardly wait until his next book.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

I was rather surprised when he accepted the Légion d’honneur!*
Next stop no doubt the Académie Française.

(*Despite its wonderful privileges.)

RM Parker
RM Parker
8 months ago

Perhaps “pour épater la nouvelle bourgeoisie?” I surely hope so.
If, on the other hand, he becomes subsumed into the élite establishment, his back catalogue will never disappoint…

RM Parker
RM Parker
8 months ago

Perhaps “pour épater la nouvelle bourgeoisie?” I surely hope so.
If, on the other hand, he becomes subsumed into the élite establishment, his back catalogue will never disappoint…

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
8 months ago

Yet another dad-joke double entendre, I like it.

Peter Kwasi-Modo
Peter Kwasi-Modo
8 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Well, it is Friday

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

#MeToo

RM Parker
RM Parker
8 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Thanks – having a slow day and missed that one. Nicely done, Peter!

Last edited 8 months ago by RM Parker
Peter Kwasi-Modo
Peter Kwasi-Modo
8 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Well, it is Friday

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

#MeToo

RM Parker
RM Parker
8 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Thanks – having a slow day and missed that one. Nicely done, Peter!

Last edited 8 months ago by RM Parker
Dark Horse
Dark Horse
8 months ago

There is indeed something deeply gratifying about reading a brilliant enraged witty and deeply cynical pessimist – a real tonic in fact!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

I was rather surprised when he accepted the Légion d’honneur!*
Next stop no doubt the Académie Française.

(*Despite its wonderful privileges.)

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
8 months ago

Yet another dad-joke double entendre, I like it.

Dark Horse
Dark Horse
8 months ago

There is indeed something deeply gratifying about reading a brilliant enraged witty and deeply cynical pessimist – a real tonic in fact!

Peter Kwasi-Modo
Peter Kwasi-Modo
8 months ago

I’ve read and enjoyed several of Michel Houellebecq’s books. There is one aspect of his self-appointed role as enfant terrible of French letters (I couldn’t resist that one) that I especially like. He tweaks the tail of the French intelligentsia by spotting the issue that they have swept under the carpet and making that issue the subject matter of his next novel, thereby ensuring notoriety, celebrity and a reputation for prescience. But it never occurred to me that his books might be shelved under “self-help”. If you think of him as an essayist, rather than a novelist, then he is a kind of anti-Montaigne, writing more to discomfort the intellectuals than to comfort the punters. I can hardly wait until his next book.

Jon Morrow
Jon Morrow
8 months ago

Management at the University of Sussex are idiots.

RM Parker
RM Parker
8 months ago
Reply to  Jon Morrow

Management in most arenas is larded with such as those. The ones worth their salt seem to depart…

Dark Horse
Dark Horse
8 months ago
Reply to  Jon Morrow

Their loss!

RM Parker
RM Parker
8 months ago
Reply to  Jon Morrow

Management in most arenas is larded with such as those. The ones worth their salt seem to depart…

Dark Horse
Dark Horse
8 months ago
Reply to  Jon Morrow

Their loss!

Jon Morrow
Jon Morrow
8 months ago

Management at the University of Sussex are idiots.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
8 months ago

It confronts you with the purest synthesis of a despairing take on liberal society, and make you live there for a while, drinking it in. And after a while, the feelings of despair start to lose their power, and you start to realise that hopelessness is only a mood after all. It’s not the world — it’s you.
“But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
8 months ago

You misunderstand. When there is understanding that a feeling or mood is a fleeting product of an overactive mind which is not you then you are freed. Its the opposite of what you seem to imply.

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
8 months ago

You misunderstand. When there is understanding that a feeling or mood is a fleeting product of an overactive mind which is not you then you are freed. Its the opposite of what you seem to imply.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
8 months ago

It confronts you with the purest synthesis of a despairing take on liberal society, and make you live there for a while, drinking it in. And after a while, the feelings of despair start to lose their power, and you start to realise that hopelessness is only a mood after all. It’s not the world — it’s you.
“But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

“And after a while, the feelings of despair start to lose their power, and you start to realise that hopelessness is only a mood after all. It’s not the world — it’s you.”

Up until the simply appalling COVID fiasco I would have wholeheartedly agreed with you, but not now.
Houellebecq’s deep seated pessimism about Monotheism and in particular Islam is almost certainly correct, and we should prepare for the worst, if only for our great grandchildren’s sake.

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago

Submission is an instructional book on how a man can survive in the France of the future: throw your lot in with the Mohammedans, get a couple of young wives and become a respected elder in the new world. C’est La Vie!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

The puritanical Censor strikes again.

Last edited 8 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Yes I know, ‘tongue in cheek’ really!
I forget whether he mentioned that mutilating ones p*nis was mandatory, and wasn’t it four wives not two?

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago

The number of wives depends on the man’s wealth according to the novel.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Thank you.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Thank you.

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago

The number of wives depends on the man’s wealth according to the novel.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

I read Soumission more as a satire of cynical Sorbonne hipsterism.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

The puritanical Censor strikes again.

Last edited 8 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Yes I know, ‘tongue in cheek’ really!
I forget whether he mentioned that mutilating ones p*nis was mandatory, and wasn’t it four wives not two?

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

I read Soumission more as a satire of cynical Sorbonne hipsterism.

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
8 months ago

Islam, I beleive, is the biggest threat to Western culture and in particular to the liberty of women and girls. I’m not at all surpised that France isn’t helping us stop the boats, we are fools to even think they would do that!
I recommend “Prey” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Her book is well argued with clear data as to difficulties Muslim men, above all other religious men, find it difficut to take on 21st century Western liberal values. She has a chapter on the Pakistani so called ‘grooming’ gangs and their raping activities across the UK. These men currently engaged in this sickening practice are third generation British Muslims. So patient Guardian readers please note, no integration forethcoming there.

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago

Submission is an instructional book on how a man can survive in the France of the future: throw your lot in with the Mohammedans, get a couple of young wives and become a respected elder in the new world. C’est La Vie!

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
8 months ago

Islam, I beleive, is the biggest threat to Western culture and in particular to the liberty of women and girls. I’m not at all surpised that France isn’t helping us stop the boats, we are fools to even think they would do that!
I recommend “Prey” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Her book is well argued with clear data as to difficulties Muslim men, above all other religious men, find it difficut to take on 21st century Western liberal values. She has a chapter on the Pakistani so called ‘grooming’ gangs and their raping activities across the UK. These men currently engaged in this sickening practice are third generation British Muslims. So patient Guardian readers please note, no integration forethcoming there.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

“And after a while, the feelings of despair start to lose their power, and you start to realise that hopelessness is only a mood after all. It’s not the world — it’s you.”

Up until the simply appalling COVID fiasco I would have wholeheartedly agreed with you, but not now.
Houellebecq’s deep seated pessimism about Monotheism and in particular Islam is almost certainly correct, and we should prepare for the worst, if only for our great grandchildren’s sake.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago

My personal response to woke fascism in the legacy publishing industry is that I only read novels by White men. Apart from Edward St Aubyn, Houellebecq is pretty much the only living novelist I read, and as a sub-fluent French speaker I’ve read almost his entire oeuvre in the original. Professor Stock is an excellent literary critic – certainly vastly superior to Terry bloody Eagleton – and I broadly agree with her assessment of Houellebecq’s writing, although I see him more as a social conservative satirist of liberalism and neoliberalism than as a flat-out pessimist. Underneath the bleakness of “Serotonine”, there is as RMParker below points out a mordant humour.

Last edited 8 months ago by Richard Craven
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

.

Last edited 8 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

How very interesting.
St Aubyn? Was that the chap who claimed he was b*ggered by his father, a former Cavalry Officer as I recall.
Does he write well?

Last edited 8 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
8 months ago

Yes.The Patrick Melrose novels are well worth a read.

Last edited 8 months ago by Philip Burrell
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

Thank you.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

Thank you.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago

Yes it was, and yes he most certainly does.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Thank you, I’m off to Cornwall shortly so will follow your recommendation.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Thank you, I’m off to Cornwall shortly so will follow your recommendation.

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
8 months ago

Yes.The Patrick Melrose novels are well worth a read.

Last edited 8 months ago by Philip Burrell
Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago

Yes it was, and yes he most certainly does.

RM Parker
RM Parker
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Excellent point re. Houellebecq’s social conservatism: you succinctly identify something that always struck me as well. I think his work often has the subtext of a lament for historical, and much more human social structures which have been engineered out of existence by successive generations of ideologues. What remains to us is terminally jejune and without foundation – and deep down, I think that’s what’s eating Michel.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

.

Last edited 8 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

How very interesting.
St Aubyn? Was that the chap who claimed he was b*ggered by his father, a former Cavalry Officer as I recall.
Does he write well?

Last edited 8 months ago by Charles Stanhope
RM Parker
RM Parker
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Excellent point re. Houellebecq’s social conservatism: you succinctly identify something that always struck me as well. I think his work often has the subtext of a lament for historical, and much more human social structures which have been engineered out of existence by successive generations of ideologues. What remains to us is terminally jejune and without foundation – and deep down, I think that’s what’s eating Michel.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago

My personal response to woke fascism in the legacy publishing industry is that I only read novels by White men. Apart from Edward St Aubyn, Houellebecq is pretty much the only living novelist I read, and as a sub-fluent French speaker I’ve read almost his entire oeuvre in the original. Professor Stock is an excellent literary critic – certainly vastly superior to Terry bloody Eagleton – and I broadly agree with her assessment of Houellebecq’s writing, although I see him more as a social conservative satirist of liberalism and neoliberalism than as a flat-out pessimist. Underneath the bleakness of “Serotonine”, there is as RMParker below points out a mordant humour.

Last edited 8 months ago by Richard Craven
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago

Houellebeqc’s mother was clearly the inspiration for Patsy Stone’s:”I name the child Eurydice Colette Clytemnestra Dido Bathsheba Rabelais Patricia Cocteau Stone. Now take it away, and bring me another lover!”

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago

Houellebeqc’s mother was clearly the inspiration for Patsy Stone’s:”I name the child Eurydice Colette Clytemnestra Dido Bathsheba Rabelais Patricia Cocteau Stone. Now take it away, and bring me another lover!”

Kelly Madden
Kelly Madden
8 months ago

Some significant portion of men publicly self-identify as incels? (I’ve known some who are involuntarily celibate—but as a matter of fact, not identity.)
Sex is for marriage, is better in marriage, by all self-reporting. And so why not frame the problem as such to yourself?
Become a deeply attractive person. The key to attractiveness and marriageability is not finding the right person but being the right person. Not the sh*tty Andrew-Tate-wannabe alpha male, but someone who has goals, cares about people, especially those closest to him, serves others, contributes, acts like he has something to learn, takes cares of himself and his stuff….
So much about the modern world puzzles me—It’s all so… disordered!—probably because as as a Christian, I’m a total anachronism.

Last edited 8 months ago by Kelly Madden
Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
8 months ago
Reply to  Kelly Madden

That’s the Jordan Peterson solution.

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
8 months ago
Reply to  Kelly Madden

That’s the Jordan Peterson solution.

Kelly Madden
Kelly Madden
8 months ago

Some significant portion of men publicly self-identify as incels? (I’ve known some who are involuntarily celibate—but as a matter of fact, not identity.)
Sex is for marriage, is better in marriage, by all self-reporting. And so why not frame the problem as such to yourself?
Become a deeply attractive person. The key to attractiveness and marriageability is not finding the right person but being the right person. Not the sh*tty Andrew-Tate-wannabe alpha male, but someone who has goals, cares about people, especially those closest to him, serves others, contributes, acts like he has something to learn, takes cares of himself and his stuff….
So much about the modern world puzzles me—It’s all so… disordered!—probably because as as a Christian, I’m a total anachronism.

Last edited 8 months ago by Kelly Madden
Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
8 months ago

Joy Division does it for me.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
8 months ago
Jason Smith
Jason Smith
8 months ago

It’s strange. I worshipped Joy Division but when I returned to it recently I found it was pretentious, unlistenable rubbish. I suspect I was rather more influenced by the NME than I care to admit

Last edited 8 months ago by Jason Smith
Chris Amies
Chris Amies
8 months ago
Reply to  Jason Smith

or it’s like the writing of William Burroughs – great at first but tedious when you go back to it. And what’s with the centipedes?

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris Amies

Agreed. I stopped reading ‘Naked Lunch’ when I got to the part where Burroughs and his friend pay two young Egyptian boys to b****r each other. Ugly, nihilistic garbage. And what’s with the fascination with junkies? There’s nothing ‘edgy’ about them, all they do is live for their next fix.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris Amies

Agreed. I stopped reading ‘Naked Lunch’ when I got to the part where Burroughs and his friend pay two young Egyptian boys to b****r each other. Ugly, nihilistic garbage. And what’s with the fascination with junkies? There’s nothing ‘edgy’ about them, all they do is live for their next fix.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
8 months ago
Reply to  Jason Smith

Your analysis is incorrect.
I don’t wish to offend you – but is there the smallest chance that it is your good self who may have become a tad pretentious in your middle age : ) “I’m above all that now, I listen to jazz” lol.
At heart, pretension is dishonesty – deliberate exaggeration and conceit and swaggering preening, etc.
None of that remotely applied to Joy Division, or to Ian Curtis.
Serious yes, pretentious not at all. Curtis had severe and worsening epilepsy, a chaotic personal life, and cripplingly-low self-esteem, as the lyrics from “Isolation” make clear:
“I’m doing the best that I can
I’m ashamed of the things I’ve been put through
I’m ashamed of the person I am”
There are countless pretentious artists – bands, writers – who feign, and exaggerate, emotions to sell records. Gothic fakers aspire to the cultural kudos of despair (they think it denotes depth), but they’re usually faking it, and are thinly-disguised cheery chappies aping miserabilism.
I’ve listened to various covers of Joy Division’s songs by other artists, and such covers invariably are pretentious and deeply irritating. They’re faking it, and their insincerity grates to the point where I’d punch them if I met them. 
Not so for Curtis’ Joy Division, he and they were 100% authentic. He hanged himself aged 23, for heaven’s sake. Unless you reckon that he killed himself merely to perpetuate an image.
Obviously, as a happy and successful middle-aged person, you may find such youthful despair frankly irritating, and you of course are not obliged to endorse such an absolutist youthful stance, but to call it “pretentious” misses the point spectacularly.  
The film about the band, Control, is a riveting watch, for non-fans and fans alike.  

Jason Smith
Jason Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

It’s certainly possible, although I can’t stand jazz and have never been able to listen to it. I think the issue is rather the other way, I’ve become far less pretentious. I couldn’t give a shit about listening to the “right” music now and I’m happy to admit I love cheesy pop or anything with a decent melody.

Last edited 8 months ago by Jason Smith
Jason Smith
Jason Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

It’s certainly possible, although I can’t stand jazz and have never been able to listen to it. I think the issue is rather the other way, I’ve become far less pretentious. I couldn’t give a shit about listening to the “right” music now and I’m happy to admit I love cheesy pop or anything with a decent melody.

Last edited 8 months ago by Jason Smith
Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
8 months ago
Reply to  Jason Smith

That’s a shame. I think they’ve stood the test of time. New Order not so much.

Chris Amies
Chris Amies
8 months ago
Reply to  Jason Smith

or it’s like the writing of William Burroughs – great at first but tedious when you go back to it. And what’s with the centipedes?

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
8 months ago
Reply to  Jason Smith

Your analysis is incorrect.
I don’t wish to offend you – but is there the smallest chance that it is your good self who may have become a tad pretentious in your middle age : ) “I’m above all that now, I listen to jazz” lol.
At heart, pretension is dishonesty – deliberate exaggeration and conceit and swaggering preening, etc.
None of that remotely applied to Joy Division, or to Ian Curtis.
Serious yes, pretentious not at all. Curtis had severe and worsening epilepsy, a chaotic personal life, and cripplingly-low self-esteem, as the lyrics from “Isolation” make clear:
“I’m doing the best that I can
I’m ashamed of the things I’ve been put through
I’m ashamed of the person I am”
There are countless pretentious artists – bands, writers – who feign, and exaggerate, emotions to sell records. Gothic fakers aspire to the cultural kudos of despair (they think it denotes depth), but they’re usually faking it, and are thinly-disguised cheery chappies aping miserabilism.
I’ve listened to various covers of Joy Division’s songs by other artists, and such covers invariably are pretentious and deeply irritating. They’re faking it, and their insincerity grates to the point where I’d punch them if I met them. 
Not so for Curtis’ Joy Division, he and they were 100% authentic. He hanged himself aged 23, for heaven’s sake. Unless you reckon that he killed himself merely to perpetuate an image.
Obviously, as a happy and successful middle-aged person, you may find such youthful despair frankly irritating, and you of course are not obliged to endorse such an absolutist youthful stance, but to call it “pretentious” misses the point spectacularly.  
The film about the band, Control, is a riveting watch, for non-fans and fans alike.  

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
8 months ago
Reply to  Jason Smith

That’s a shame. I think they’ve stood the test of time. New Order not so much.

John Galt Was Correct
John Galt Was Correct
8 months ago

Shadowplay still sends shivers down my spine to this day.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago

I saw Joy Division aged about 15 at a Rock Against Racism gig in the Rainbow at Finsbury Park, about 6 weeks before Ian Curtis’s death.

Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson
8 months ago

Larkin does it for me.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
8 months ago
Jason Smith
Jason Smith
8 months ago

It’s strange. I worshipped Joy Division but when I returned to it recently I found it was pretentious, unlistenable rubbish. I suspect I was rather more influenced by the NME than I care to admit

Last edited 8 months ago by Jason Smith
John Galt Was Correct
John Galt Was Correct
8 months ago

Shadowplay still sends shivers down my spine to this day.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago

I saw Joy Division aged about 15 at a Rock Against Racism gig in the Rainbow at Finsbury Park, about 6 weeks before Ian Curtis’s death.

Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson
8 months ago

Larkin does it for me.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
8 months ago

Joy Division does it for me.

Andrew H
Andrew H
8 months ago

“Touching as it is to see the keenness of the academic to reconcile the demands of his two perennial masters — a love of edgy transgression, and the desire to write only what a Guardian reader might approve of —…” Chapeau, Professor Stock, another absolute gem from you.

Andrew H
Andrew H
8 months ago

“Touching as it is to see the keenness of the academic to reconcile the demands of his two perennial masters — a love of edgy transgression, and the desire to write only what a Guardian reader might approve of —…” Chapeau, Professor Stock, another absolute gem from you.

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
8 months ago

Christ, what a miserable bunch of losers they all sound. Listen, it’s Saturday tomorrow. Go to the football; have some beer on the pub lawn afterwards. Flirt with the girls l.

Get a life, why don’t you?

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

b****r football.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

b****r football.

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
8 months ago

Christ, what a miserable bunch of losers they all sound. Listen, it’s Saturday tomorrow. Go to the football; have some beer on the pub lawn afterwards. Flirt with the girls l.

Get a life, why don’t you?

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago

All these questions have been answered much more succinctly:

You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the Devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Dylan?

Life is a sad
Life is a bust
All you can do is do what you must
You do what you must do
And you do it well
I’d do it for you honey baby
Can’t you tell?

Last edited 8 months ago by Dermot O'Sullivan
Studio Largo
Studio Largo
8 months ago

Can’t believe people still take that huckster fraud seriously.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
8 months ago

Can’t believe people still take that huckster fraud seriously.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Dylan?

Life is a sad
Life is a bust
All you can do is do what you must
You do what you must do
And you do it well
I’d do it for you honey baby
Can’t you tell?

Last edited 8 months ago by Dermot O'Sullivan
Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago

All these questions have been answered much more succinctly:

You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the Devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
8 months ago

I’ve read him. He writes well, and he probably has a point about the mad mullahs.
But, intelligence and wordplay aside, god he has such a shrivelled heart.
The works of e.g. Beckett, Camus, Peter Handke et al are hardly a bundle of laughs either, but you somehow sense the disappointment in that they wished for more.
And they’re better writers too.
There is something paradoxically ennobling in Beckett’s degradations. 
H’becq by contrast seems to revel in his own self-limiting bourgeois shit.
Can’t stand his stuff. 
Dreary t**t.
As for the incel wankers, I guess reading anytthing otuside their w**k-bubble would help them, but I favour national service for those mummy’s boys

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
8 months ago

I’ve read him. He writes well, and he probably has a point about the mad mullahs.
But, intelligence and wordplay aside, god he has such a shrivelled heart.
The works of e.g. Beckett, Camus, Peter Handke et al are hardly a bundle of laughs either, but you somehow sense the disappointment in that they wished for more.
And they’re better writers too.
There is something paradoxically ennobling in Beckett’s degradations. 
H’becq by contrast seems to revel in his own self-limiting bourgeois shit.
Can’t stand his stuff. 
Dreary t**t.
As for the incel wankers, I guess reading anytthing otuside their w**k-bubble would help them, but I favour national service for those mummy’s boys

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
8 months ago

“…In ordinary life, it’s easy to confuse a temporary mood with a fact about the world, and vice versa…”

Indeed. Doomsaying per se is a mood, a shimmer, a mirage, a chimera, and “…feelings of despair start to lose their power…” when you shift perspectives. But you can’t argue with a bunch of mathematical equations. The consequences of for example, Bayesian Inference, will play out regardless of whether any given human is a doomer or not – moods don’t come into it.

It’s not the world, it’s me, and the only question to decide is, if I am staring at “a fact about the world” or a “temporary mood”. I am an outright, machine intelligence doomer. At one level, I have not in fact, changed my views on this – as in, I have believed for a long time that *if* human sentience is algorithmic, and human-like sentience is replicable on computers, then the machines will supercede us (once we create machine intelligence significantly smarter than us). But the reality of the resolution of this question in the positive, seemed far away all these years, notwithstanding that I was obsessively engaged with the nature of cognition and intelligence since my early twenties; also notwithstanding that every trendline about technological advance that I know of, has been screaming at me for decades that we, as in this generation of humanity, is going to be right on the precipice of a resolution one way or the other, right about now. Even now, I am not absolutely certain that I’m beginning to see what I think I’m seeing, but what I absolutely don’t want to do, is ignore evidence piling up in front of my eyes, although if what I think is evidence, is in fact what I think it is, is moot. (And congratulations if you managed to make head or tail of that sentence). But that’s all a bit like imagining your own extreme old age and declining cognitive and physical powers when you are in your mid twenties – possible in the theoretical sure, but very difficult to project as your own eventual reality (unless you are a Shakespeare), until it actually starts to happen, and even then you are not too sure that you are seeing what you think you are seeing, but then the evidence begins to stack up more and more, and there is no denying what is happening, assuming you are still by then capable of denying.

Houellebecq sounds a hoot by the way, but having rather gone off froggie pessimism (about the only one I can still bring myself to read these days is Camus), I think I will stick with Frayn.

Last edited 8 months ago by Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
8 months ago

“…In ordinary life, it’s easy to confuse a temporary mood with a fact about the world, and vice versa…”

Indeed. Doomsaying per se is a mood, a shimmer, a mirage, a chimera, and “…feelings of despair start to lose their power…” when you shift perspectives. But you can’t argue with a bunch of mathematical equations. The consequences of for example, Bayesian Inference, will play out regardless of whether any given human is a doomer or not – moods don’t come into it.

It’s not the world, it’s me, and the only question to decide is, if I am staring at “a fact about the world” or a “temporary mood”. I am an outright, machine intelligence doomer. At one level, I have not in fact, changed my views on this – as in, I have believed for a long time that *if* human sentience is algorithmic, and human-like sentience is replicable on computers, then the machines will supercede us (once we create machine intelligence significantly smarter than us). But the reality of the resolution of this question in the positive, seemed far away all these years, notwithstanding that I was obsessively engaged with the nature of cognition and intelligence since my early twenties; also notwithstanding that every trendline about technological advance that I know of, has been screaming at me for decades that we, as in this generation of humanity, is going to be right on the precipice of a resolution one way or the other, right about now. Even now, I am not absolutely certain that I’m beginning to see what I think I’m seeing, but what I absolutely don’t want to do, is ignore evidence piling up in front of my eyes, although if what I think is evidence, is in fact what I think it is, is moot. (And congratulations if you managed to make head or tail of that sentence). But that’s all a bit like imagining your own extreme old age and declining cognitive and physical powers when you are in your mid twenties – possible in the theoretical sure, but very difficult to project as your own eventual reality (unless you are a Shakespeare), until it actually starts to happen, and even then you are not too sure that you are seeing what you think you are seeing, but then the evidence begins to stack up more and more, and there is no denying what is happening, assuming you are still by then capable of denying.

Houellebecq sounds a hoot by the way, but having rather gone off froggie pessimism (about the only one I can still bring myself to read these days is Camus), I think I will stick with Frayn.

Last edited 8 months ago by Prashant Kotak
Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
8 months ago

Hollubeq is a nihilist and the Buddhist death meditation approach to his writings is the wisest course for remedying the misery which our information overloaded brains and egos inflict upon us. What Stock is describing is the “ witnessing state” or the Buddha’s “ right mindfulness” where the seeker cultivates the ability to view all thought and feelings as a passive witness and thereby dissolves the ego leading to a tranquil form of joy. In such a state Judeo Christian values are unnecessarily and concupiscence is transcended. If everyone sought this path the world would be a far better place.

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
8 months ago

Hollubeq is a nihilist and the Buddhist death meditation approach to his writings is the wisest course for remedying the misery which our information overloaded brains and egos inflict upon us. What Stock is describing is the “ witnessing state” or the Buddha’s “ right mindfulness” where the seeker cultivates the ability to view all thought and feelings as a passive witness and thereby dissolves the ego leading to a tranquil form of joy. In such a state Judeo Christian values are unnecessarily and concupiscence is transcended. If everyone sought this path the world would be a far better place.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago

I ground my way through his novels and found them miserable and soulless. I wish I had spent the time reading something else.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago

I ground my way through his novels and found them miserable and soulless. I wish I had spent the time reading something else.

Jürg Gassmann
Jürg Gassmann
8 months ago

I remember reading Les Particules Élémentaires at the time, and thought it was a pretentious waste of time. Maybe I didn’t get it and still don’t get it, but the experience (reinforced by appearances on talk shows) has not inspired me to try any more Houellebecq.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

What a miserable looking, and sounding, individual he is.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

What a miserable looking, and sounding, individual he is.

Jürg Gassmann
Jürg Gassmann
8 months ago

I remember reading Les Particules Élémentaires at the time, and thought it was a pretentious waste of time. Maybe I didn’t get it and still don’t get it, but the experience (reinforced by appearances on talk shows) has not inspired me to try any more Houellebecq.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
8 months ago

I would fault Houellebecq for producing anti-literature on occasions i.e. brutally perfunctory prose to serve the thesis of certain novels. Elsewhere, there are more poignant elements to his writing in capturing the postmodern human conditions. “The Map and the Territory” even resembles a classical European novel which is why he won the Prix Goncourt for it.
However, the above is just a terse and disappointing exercise in misandry focused on adolescent readings of the MH canon. If anything, his most recent translated book Serotonin (and by far worst put-together) is a focused portrait of male malaise at this point in time. So he covers all the bases relating to this currently fashionable inflection of the culture wars.
As far the critic goes, I really think the tide is starting to turn away from feminists in the trans debate now. ‘Gender’ is their concept, after all, and while we have sympathy for confused young women who are forced by cynical surgeons and psych ideologues into sex reassignment surgery, their number is small and largely concentrated in very privileged corners of American society

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
8 months ago

I would fault Houellebecq for producing anti-literature on occasions i.e. brutally perfunctory prose to serve the thesis of certain novels. Elsewhere, there are more poignant elements to his writing in capturing the postmodern human conditions. “The Map and the Territory” even resembles a classical European novel which is why he won the Prix Goncourt for it.
However, the above is just a terse and disappointing exercise in misandry focused on adolescent readings of the MH canon. If anything, his most recent translated book Serotonin (and by far worst put-together) is a focused portrait of male malaise at this point in time. So he covers all the bases relating to this currently fashionable inflection of the culture wars.
As far the critic goes, I really think the tide is starting to turn away from feminists in the trans debate now. ‘Gender’ is their concept, after all, and while we have sympathy for confused young women who are forced by cynical surgeons and psych ideologues into sex reassignment surgery, their number is small and largely concentrated in very privileged corners of American society

Mark McConnell
Mark McConnell
8 months ago

I love Doc Stock lolz. Houellebecq the reluctant pornstar, becoming a character in his novels, is up there with Dostoyevsky on the gallows.

Mark McConnell
Mark McConnell
8 months ago

I love Doc Stock lolz. Houellebecq the reluctant pornstar, becoming a character in his novels, is up there with Dostoyevsky on the gallows.

Bernard Kelly
Bernard Kelly
8 months ago

This sounds like critique for the sake of critique. Read Huellebecq and enjoy.

Bernard Kelly
Bernard Kelly
8 months ago

This sounds like critique for the sake of critique. Read Huellebecq and enjoy.

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
8 months ago