Houllebecq: ‘withered ghoul’?

30 03 2006

Writing about web page http://www.newcriterion.com/archives/24/03/houellebecq-beck

So, Houllebecq – ‘withered ghoul’, genius or bit of an arse? This review doesn’t really help his case:

It is the natural reductio of the trouble we’re in: a world in which nothing frightens more than the prospect of growing older, less desirable, less relevant to the interminable bustle of sexual commerce.
The pathos of Houellebecq is that, however completely he understands this condition, he allows himself to be governed by it. He hates himself for being a withered ghoul. He frets incessantly over the decline in his sexual potency. Where a more mature and reasonable man would pursue marriage, children, and family, he desperately chases chemicals and sexual experiences to artificially prolong his youth. (These lead only to embarrassment and heartbreak: “I had left my coitus cream in Lutétia, and this was my first mistake…I sensed she was a little disappointed.”) There’s nothing new or modern about fear of the twilight years. What’s new is the undignified manner in which people like Michel Houellebecq shuffle toward the end. Simply, he’s a coward.

OK, so he’s a bit sad. This piece does seem somewhat overindulgent towards his behaviour though.

But his books are still, I think, really rather enjoyable if wilfully shocking at times and a bit flabby.

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