**spoiler alert** The best part about this book is the title. In saying this, I am not being sarcastic: the title alone (in addition to a well-meaning**spoiler alert** The best part about this book is the title. In saying this, I am not being sarcastic: the title alone (in addition to a well-meaning friend's enthusiasm for it,) had me thinking of all sorts of possibilities. Why, after all, should we expect something to be in the same place day after day simply because we find it convenient? Surely a majority of our collective difficulty with life is our inability to embrace unexpected change in our lives, I reasoned. Surely the good doctor has written a most remarkable book.
But I was wrong. Had I paid for the book myself, I would have taken it back to the store and demanded my money back. First, the font made it appear as if it were written for unusually stupid 8 year olds who had trouble with words too close together. had I gotten a children's version? No, this was indeed the adult version....and even though the examples and the comparisons neared the pathetic, I spent the full hour necessary to read the entire tome. Why this was published by anyone who read it is the only question I continue to ask myself.
Once again, I thought the title was a stroke of genius. There was so much a good writer (even of the self-help genre, which I usually loathe) could have done that I have to restrain myself from spitting venom at this short waste of paper. However, if you have a decent imagination and have been, as most of us have, been caught up demanding that life always hand out roses, take a few minutes, meditate on the title and commit yourself to embracing life which just doesn't seem fair. It's worth the effort and it just might save yourself a little misplaced road rage....more
**spoiler alert** I have been troubling over a way in which I might summarize this troubling book and I have decided that it is best represented by a**spoiler alert** I have been troubling over a way in which I might summarize this troubling book and I have decided that it is best represented by a well known Pascal quote: "lus je vois l'homme, plus j'aimie mon chien. Yes, that is the positive aspects of this book in a nutshell. In fact, when the protagonist’s dog, Fox, was killed, I cried, unable to stop for several minutes. The rest is a depiction of a social fabric which has torn itself to rags and threads of pseudo-value. This is a difficult book, one would almost call it deceptively erudite as Houellebecq throws out concepts and ideas as if he were handing out menus to a deli on a busy New York street. It seems odd that one should have to read Schopenhauer and Nietzsche and even Heidegger before one can truly understand he is saying but, alas, it seems true: even his jokes, which are extremely funny, are so arcane that they often seem transparent. For the first half of the book, I filled up pages and pages of quotes, even the dirty ones, because I found them all so intelligent and wonderful. After that, it wasn’t quite that I was bored with the idea as I was beginning to wonder where the book was going. In truth, close to the end, I suspected that it wasn’t going anywhere and would do something “poetic” like hang the reader out to dry. In truth, it almost did. If I understand this any better than I did before I read it, I believe that the Epilogue was written first and then he constructed the entire book around the character. If I had a criticism of the book, I might argue that it isn’t a perfect fit either, but that would be quibbling. As with Particles, none of the characters is very admirable, least of which is the protagonist. He is a sexist loutish pig, but someone not out of character with the modern day man who sees wealth and sexual power as the pinnacle of expression. In fact it was easy to recognize the women too, fixated on being anyone but themselves, all the time insisting on their freedom to become something that meanders into nothingness without a care in the world except the self’s expression. It is a rather ugly look at, it finally strikes one, the modern world and where mankind seems to want to go right now. If it takes one longer than 100 pages to realize that he or she is looking in a mirror, one has perhaps missed the entire point. H. has devised a kind of science fiction in which the self is created in a neo-human way through copying DNA. You don’t find that out until about 200 pages has gone by and in the meantime you are reading about these people like Daniel 1,9 and Daniel 25,1 and all these other people with numbers after their first name. I almost went back and started again convinced I had missed something but I hadn’t. It’s just slow in coming and in the meantime he is hawking Schopenhauer (the concept of the infinite life cycle) and making fun of people like Teilhard de Chardin and Hegel. I didn’t quite get why he didn’t like Hegel, but maybe he was too much of a Schopenhauerian. I even considered that Houellebecq himself was one of the neo-human forms of Schopenhauer. Maybe that is one of the only ways in which this book makes sense anyway. This book affects you deeply when you read it, especially if you take it to heart, something on the order of reading Dickens, except that no one really wins out in the end. The Island is, after all, only a possibility, a place where one might live, even after becoming neo-human, but my skepticism tells me that he doesn’t think it either likely or something which will catch on. Play that dirty music, white boy! Still he mentions Spinoza twice and it made me think of how he meant to evoke his spirit…and then I realized that this was a positive hidden thing. One gathers that the possibility of modern society rediscovering the meaning of living is probably pretty slim. Still, even as this is an indictment of our modern age, I couldn’t help but think of Dante’s Paradiso in Canto 29 where he says, “I would not have you doubt, but have you know surely that there is merit in receiving grace, measured by the longing to receive it.” Perhaps then even this diatribe against what we have become in our little planet has the solace in understanding that our acknowledgement of our hubris is the beginning of a better way. At least we have the sense to know that our pets are more deserving than are we.
A stunning and stark journey into the pit of darkness, this is a book one can hardly put down even though the train wreck of a conclusion is observablA stunning and stark journey into the pit of darkness, this is a book one can hardly put down even though the train wreck of a conclusion is observable from the beginning....more
I was ill prepared for how wonderful this book is. Most of what I have ever read of cultural anthropology has been rather tedious and flecked with egoI was ill prepared for how wonderful this book is. Most of what I have ever read of cultural anthropology has been rather tedious and flecked with egoism and hope that some propounded theory will provides the metaphysical glue which hold long enough to achieve notoriety. Eisley writes with no such prejudices and with so much joy that it is easy to accept his statement that his childhood finally ended when he was 50.
One has to admire someone who is capable of absorbing the world around him as a child. During one of his sojourns into the cold dark winter, he discovers a discarded Christmas tree and strokes it apologetically and finally takes it home for a closing ceremony which he believes that it missed. This is to say his observations are childlike rather than childish. His reading breadth is nothing short of amazing and I was glad to see him acknowledge the genius of Francis Bacon as the father of modern empirical science. It is not the supposition or the imagining of what something of our world is like, but the discovery which is significant. It cannot be stated strongly enough how much such thinking changed our world to the point where the statement is almost obvious. While his chapter on World Eaters was profound, the comparison of men and their ideas as spore bearers was beautiful imagery. Our ideas are necessarily thrown out into the world .. and there is great waste about such because they are a mere best guess of a direction, but generally it is hoped that a few will be pollinated and thrive. It gives one a sense of both the necessity of having created various ideas and the reason they never germinate: after all, he suggests, nature is rather wasteful too! Man is not a creature to be contained in a solitary skull vault, nor is measurable as ,say, a saber-toothed cat or a bison is measurable. Something, the rainbow dancing before his eyes, the word uttered by the cave fire at evening, eludes us and runs onward. It is gone when we come with our spades upon the cold dead ashes of the campfire four hundred thousand years removed. This book reminds us of something which Einstein said, something those of us who seek God's closer nature ought to bear in mind more often than we do. Man pushes onward through time as he must. The paradox remains, as he points out quoting Maritain, that God exists out of time...more