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Mystery Guest

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  648 ratings  ·  135 reviews
When the phone rang on a gloomy fall afternoon in 1990, Grégoire Bouillier had no way of knowing that it was the woman who’d left him, without warning, ten years before. And he couldn’t have guessed why she was calling—not to apologize for, or explain, the way she’d vanished from his life, but to invite him to a party. A birthday party. For a woman he’d never met.

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Hardcover, 128 pages
Published August 22nd 2006 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published 2004)
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Community Reviews

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It takes a big man to admit how deeply he’s been hurt by a woman—and an even bigger man to do it without sounding like Conor Oberst. In his prime, Isaac Hayes could feel secure enough to cry like a girl, because everyone knew he was still a bad mutha (shut yo mouth). More recently, Ghostface Killah taught us that even gangstas get all torn up inside, and that a kick in the nuts doesn’t have to impair your swagger permanently. And just this past summer, Cee-Lo Green tried desperately to “forget” ...more
Aug 07, 2008 Edan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Edan by: Patrick Brown
Taking this to Kauai...

...Man this is a strange little book! I was thinking I'd give it 3 stars, but I am throwing in 1 more for its confounding factor. Yes, this book totally confounded me. The narrator speaks in these endless, circular, self conscious, amusing sentences, full of all kinds of verbal tics. His obsession with his ex-girlfriend is puzzling and sad and also totally realistic. His actions are crazy (um--the turtlenecks?), as are his reactions. I was really interested in how this guy
"the significance of a dream, we're told, has less to do with its overt drama than with the details; a long time ago it struck me that the same was true of real life, of what passes among us for real life."

"we brick ourselves up in prisons of our own devising, we spend our lives losing touch with ourselves, disappearing behind what negates us."
Have you had your heart broken? Are you an existentialist? Do you yearn for the chance to participate in performance art? If you've answered yes to all three questions then this book is for you. I found it by accident in a used bookstore and I've read it three times already. It appeals to little bitter girl living inside me.
Nicco Mele
Feb 20, 2008 Nicco Mele rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Nicco by: Garrett Graff
A delight. The absolute force of the narrative carries you through the pathetically, hilariously French story.
Apr 15, 2009 Yulia rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those interested in obsession and in Mrs. Dalloway
I was immediately drawn into the obsessive internal world of Bouillier, who receives an invitation to be a mystery guest at an artist's birthday party from the woman who'd left him without a world four years before and hadn't contacted him till that fateful call. I read on, captivated by his neuroses, wanting to gain some insight about their relationship or at least about the woman who'd so tormented him, but instead we follow Bouillier as he wracks his brain to interpret what her invitation mea ...more
Jim Coughenour
Bear with me. This review requires some background. A couple weeks ago I posted a review of Sophie Calle's Exquisite Pain. A week ago I read a review in the NYT about Bouillier's Report on Myself (which not only won the 2002 Prix de Flore, but is translated by Bruce Benderson, who won the same prize in 2004). So I ordered this book and its predecessor The Mystery Guest – only to discover that TMG is actually the successor (even though it was translated first). Also, in a coincidence worthy of Bo ...more
Ryan Chapman
Mar 05, 2007 Ryan Chapman rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Romantic, Bitter Francophiles
Shelves: nonfiction
Bouillier's book covers a phone call, a party, and a few conversations, but from such meager fuel comes pure wisdom. After the author was cruelly and mysteriously dumped by his girlfriend, she calls him out of the blue, as they say, after five years of incommunicado. She would like him to be the "mystery guest" at her friend's birthday party in a couple weeks. This sets off chains of neurotic, hilarious tangents which populate the book and render Bouillier not only as a winning and charming narr ...more
2.7 stars, rounded up considering its brevity? Maybe seven really distinguished pages throughout, whereas the rest often seemed like a kinder gentler French version of Thomas Bernhard (who's name-checked at one point), or a not-as-obsessively-precise Nicholson Baker? Zero LOLs. Way more than zero zone-outs. Inconsequential, ultimately, despite intimations of consequence? But, again, a few sweet pages, plus it's short, idiosyncratic, and moves unpredictably on the backs of sidewinder snake/opium ...more
This book details the mental un-wrapping each one of us conducts in our daily lives in the hope of discovering something larger than ourselves.

My favorite quote (although it is not from the author it is from Michel Leiris) is: "literary activity, in its specific aspect as a mental discipline, cannot have any other justification than to illuminate certain matters of oneself at the same time as one makes them communicable to others, and that one of the highest to restore by means of w
Mary Helene
May 23, 2008 Mary Helene rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Mary Helene by: Nicco
First of all: it is funny. And short. and my son Nicco gave it to me to read, so automatically it gets 4 stars. It IS a translation and, while well done, I can feel it. The odd thread, that opens and closes the book, is how publicly shared events (the death of a famous person, the path of a satellite) pick up iconic meaning for us. But the idea which drew me in is this:
What is the interaction between story and our lived lives? Are we living the stories we read? What book is on your bedstand? (I
Although, by and large, I'm allergic to auto-fiction, I fell for this spare account of some episodes in the sentimental education of Mr. Grégoire Bouillier. Sounding at times like Woody Allen, the narrator of this book recounts, in a nutshell, how he came to have a relationship with the artist Sophie Calle, a dozen years after he came to her birthday party as her signature mystery guest, on the invitation of a previous girlfriend of his, who had dumped him without a word of explanation several y ...more

Anyone who chronicles their moments of humiliation for public consumption commits an act of moral courage (or insanity), especially when those moments are just so absurd. That said, Bouillier documents a few of his with humor, generosity and self-aware elan, ultimately transforming them into acts of grace. The effect feels downright magical sometimes; in fact, I'm a little buoyant after reading this little volume.
A slight but entertaining novel. The author seamlessly incorporates a great deal of French thought into the narration while keeping it readable. Fans of Bernhard will recognize the very obvious homage to him in Boullier's first-person narration, and may want to read this book solely for the oddness/fun of reading a French man ranting like a German.
While reading this I felt the narrator was a little self involved, but there's a point in the book that everything changed for me. He stopped being so into himself and started making a lot of sense. It's a short book and when I finished it I wanted to read it start to finish in bed enjoying every sentence.
Half way through I was furious at its self absorption and lack of economy, but the end won me over a little. It's sort of about literary paranoia (in the strict sense): that events in one's life can begin to align with signs from literature and art. Involves Sophie Calle...
Bouillier has written a brief but excellent memoir about his own self-doubt and sense of loss. His subjects are heavy and existential even as his prose remains fairly light and humorous. I'm looking forward to more translations of his work.
Sally Boyer
Very sweet and playful and philosophical all at once. This is a very quick read, so no excuses people. Here are some of my favorite quotes/parts:

"... but wherever I looked all I saw was merchandise and more merchandise and nothing of any value except the value assigned to each thing in its turn by society, and nowhere I looked did I see any object that seemed to incarnate anything more than profit and gain, and in every direction lay all the commodities of the world expressing nothing so much as
Joanne  Clarke Gunter
This is the second strange little book that I have read within the past week, although this one is better than the last one. I was all set to give this book 4 stars, then I read the last chapter.

This book purports to be a true story, although it reads like a fictitious short story. It strikes me as too fanciful to be true, but that doesn't matter. The book starts out telling the story of a man (the author) whose beloved girlfriend left him about four years prior without any explanation or even
Jaclyn Michelle

I have needed this book several times over the past six years without knowing it.

The Mystery Guest is Bouillier's true account of what happened when the love of his life, who, without any warning, literally walked out on him five years prior, calls him out of the blue and invites him to be the "mystery guest" at a birthday party for an artist he's never met, where he ends up (unknowingly) participating in an uncomfortably personal piece of performance art.
B. Glen Rotchin
This French novella is a tasty lozenge of a book. Perfect for three hours on the plane.

Since being dumped by a girlfriend without explanation after a four year relationship the navel-gazing narrator was never able to get on with his life. Now, out of the blue, she calls and invites him to be the mystery guest at the birthday party of a conceptual artist friend of hers. Every year the artist makes a birthday party for herself and invites the exact number of guests corresponding to her age, with
I had medium level expectations heading into this one. I knew people liked it and that maybe I would like it too but it wasn't like this looming monster of a classic that I was almost obligated to enjoy and I'd be a fool of a took if I breathed a bad word about it. I find it hard to bring myself to read those kind of books because they're most certainly going to be a let down.

Now, with this short, delightful book in question, I rather enjoyed it. It wasn't flawless by any stretch of the imaginat
Guillermo Jiménez
Es innegable que la trama del libro me pegó directo por compartir una experiencia similar recientemente. Sin embargo, también debo reconocer que leer sobre alguien más que 'superó' un traspié amoroso me sirvió para relajarme bastante, lo suficiente, como para poder disfrutar de un trabajo literario tan honesto y tan bien trabajado como el que propone Monsieur Bouillier.

La tradición del relato oral permea todo el texto. EL punto de vista del narrador va desmenuzando sus pensamientos y lo que en a
This book may be at first frustrating for the active reader. Don't miss the forest for the (seemingly) gnarled trees. The Mystery Guest delivers on both a micro and macro level if given the chance to find its footing. There is the temptation to give up before the book wins you over, but the prize is well worth the journey.

Most of the more critical notes I'd taken about The Mystery Guest were irrelevant by the book's end. At first, Bouillier's memoir appears to be carelessly assembled - y
Why does GoodReads not have half stars? This was a 3 1/2, but closer to a 3 I guess, thus the rating. It's a nice, slim, slightly absurd, sort of charming, kind of arch little French novella and, like much French literature, it's about everything and nothing at once. I laughed out loud on a few occasions, and was impressed and a little bit moved by the symmetry and optimism with which Bouillier chooses to wrap it all up, but mostly The Mystery Guest is full of passages that inspire knowing amuse ...more
"Her call had plunged me back into a hellish slough that I'd considered well behind me, and that all of a sudden wasn't, and I fell back into sickening black thoughts I thought I'd exorcised, and was prey to grinning fiends, my old familiars, as if all my efforts to escape and move on had been worthless, as if nothing would ever come of anything. I felt like tearing the skin right off my face. For a long time I'd considered the case closed, as they say. I could go and buy bread at the bakery wit ...more
Tim Fredrick
Grégoire Bouillier’s The Mystery Guest is a small but powerful volume about love lost and - eventually - gotten over. Bouillier’s ex-girlfriend calls one day and invites him to be the “mystery guest” at a party of a friend of hers. This invitation causes Bouillier to go on a frantic and manic head trip wondering why she invited him, whether he should go, and - when he decides to go - what gift to buy the woman he does not know.

The memoir is both funny and thought-provoking. Bouillier’s mania re
Wow, this book is amazing. It's short - 126 pages - and I wish I had read it in one sitting (for the record, I read it in 3 - 2 of which were subway trips). The author's voice is just so specific and wraps you up, that I was always kicking myself when I got to my stop and had to put it away.

The book is incredibly existential and introspective, but also hilarious and touching. It's written in this stream of consciousness style that reads as if the author is in the present, moving through the eve
It is just so good. Somehow I didn't realize that this book was about attending a Sophie Calle birthday gathering when I read a review of it and so, many pages in, I became visually excited. I pumped my fist in the air.
This is one of those very "French" novels that is hard to describe but I will do my best. Basically this is the story of a man who has been invited by his ex-lover to be the mystery guest at an artists home. The man agonizes over the meaning of the invitation since the ex-lover left him with no explanations about why she was leaving him. Asking himself such questions as "Why did she invite him?" "What could she be trying to tell him?" and even analyzing the meaning behind the number of flowers a ...more
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Grégoire Bouillier is the French memoirist who wrote Rapport sur moi (Report on Myself) and L'invité mystère (The Mystery Guest). Rapport sur moi won the Prix de Flore in 2002.
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