Matthieu's Reviews > Autoportrait

Autoportrait by Édouard Levé
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May 27, 14

bookshelves: fourth-year, thoroughly-enjoyed
Read from March 05 to 15, 2012

When I was three, I cut my toe very badly with a garden spade; I entered a perfectly white space, and felt no pain. I used to purchase sports equipment from a man who was later convicted of molesting several boys. I have slept with exactly four people. I take inventory of my possessions twice a year. I am very neat (obsessively so). The smell of wet earth soothes me. I remember everything, though I've learned to forget things as well. I once fell asleep on a bus (ten minutes away from my house), and wound up back at the station (an hour and a half away from my house). I have not had phone sex. I would not like to see my parents naked. My right leg is half a centimeter longer than my left leg. The fingers on my left hand are slightly longer than the fingers on my right. I am afraid of fungal growths. As a result of injuries sustained in a car accident, I am two inches shorter than I was at eighteen. I do not love chocolate. I have never jumped from an airplane. I have never masturbated in public. The texture of sawdust delights me. I have lived in Switzerland (for three months), and in Poland (for two months). From 12 to 13, I fell asleep to Bill Evans' Alone every night. My face and body have changed so much over the past seven years, that I am now unrecognizable to most of my childhood acquaintances. The winter of 2011 was the happiest time of my life. I have never cheated on a woman. The music of Wagner and Strauss leaves me cold, but I do not dislike them. From 12 to 14, I played the piano for four hours every day. My hands, from the base of my palm to the tip of my middle finger, measure 8.26 inches. Excluding my family, I have told five women that I loved them; I believe I was often insincere. A friend and I once dressed up like sailors in third grade, and then again in sixth grade. I grew three inches between 15 and 16, and another three between 17 and 18. I have never smoked a cigarette. I don't think that I could live underground. I have smoked marijuana three or four times. I do not like to drink very much. I am not afraid to die. I once ran away from school in seventh grade, and rode a series of trains as far as Somerset (NJ). If I had to pick a number, I would say that I've had sex 104 times. I do not consider myself mature. I had a brother who died in the womb. When I was 17, I read Maldoror; I would often read parts of it aloud to a conservative Christian girl in the library because her reactions amused me. My memory is my most important faculty. Twice I have downed a bottle of cough syrup to get high. I have never attended a Sweet Sixteen or a homecoming dance. I made out with someone in the high school drawing room. I like the taste of envelope adhesive. I used to carve wooden birds and kitchen spoons. I am not afraid of heights. I have never eaten veal. I do not like it when strangers touch me. I have never been cited or arrested. I lie by omission (I will deliberately leave out details if questioned). I enjoy being in small spaces. Fireworks displays excite me. I own a cello case, but not a cello. I have owned an ammonite fossil (used as a paperweight) for ten years. I was one of the few who actually enjoyed learning Greek and Latin in middle school. My mother gave me the middle name of Thomas after Dylan Thomas. I prefer even numbers. I was first kissed by a girl named Danielle (who was thirteen) on a dare while we were sitting with a group of people that I actively disliked on a playground (I was fourteen). I think that I am often indecisive. The twenty-third of December (2010) changed everything. My father and I share a very similar taste in books, whereas my mother and I share a very similar taste in art and music. When I was 10-years-old, I obsessively washed my hands until they bled; I was afraid of everything. I find the word cellar to be the most beautiful. I have dated three people. I do not believe that there is a single direction of time (David Lewis). For a time, I cared very much about the Putnam competition. I have been mistaken for a woman several times. The idea of walking with my eyes closed excites me. I wear size 12 shoes, sometimes 13. I have never tried LSD. Elise is the middle name of the first two girls that I dated. I have never tried ecstasy. I consider myself to be rather handsome. I have a particular disdain for habitual marijuana users. I am on the downslide. I have trouble sleeping. I am quite fond of strawberry milkshakes. When I die, I wonder how many people will attend my funeral. I have translated three erotic novels. I do not like people who go to tanning salons. I have seen Mouchette twenty times. I once ran shoeless through the Princeton Art Museum when I was fourteen with two siblings who I went to school with, and who meant a lot to me at the time. I have two vials containing the ashes of a childhood friend. Despite the praise heaped on it by my siblings, I found The Bell Jar to be irritating. André Masson terrifies me, but is still one of my favourite artists. Louis Aragon and Paul Celan take me out of this world. I used to be able to read a novel a day. My father has read Ulysses over forty times. I have never deliberately burned myself. I am often guilty of self-sabotage. I once tried to break up with a girl over gchat, and earlier, over the phone. I look a lot like my father, but more like my mother. I own twenty-six sweaters. I catalogued all 1,248 books in my bedroom (at home) by the Dewey Decimal System. I almost went to school to study architecture. I like the way that certain books smell. I have never smoked opium, nor have I tried cocaine. I think that I would like heroin too much. I once saw an obese couple greedily kissing each other against a white Chevy Blazer in the parking lot of a family restaurant in Easton, PA. I would not like to stumble upon a corpse. I would not like to be an accountant. I am uneasy in rooms with windows that are either too small or too large. I like to sit with my back against a wall so that I know that nothing can sneak up on me. Cannibalism fascinates me, but I don't think that I'd want to eat another person. I have never gotten a woman pregnant. I am looking for the lost domain. Once, during the summer that I lived in New York, I met a woman from New Zealand (in the early afternoon), and we spoke until dusk about art and France and Walter Benjamin. I have never fainted. I kick open doors so that I won't have to touch them. I have purchased codeine tablets from law students. I have been told that I am emotionally distant. I have a few grey hairs, but most probably wouldn't be able to see them. I once had a dream that there was a lemon tree growing in my left lung. I do not often read or think about Plato; there was a time when I did, though. I would say that Good & Plenty is my favourite candy. I would not like to live in a desert. I neither like or dislike Jane Austen. I have never had a cavity. I would like to walk on the moon. I do not like to lie down after drinking a glass of water. Pills often scrape my throat. I'm not sure I can be psychoanalyzed. I enjoy brutalist architecture, but not always. I whistle when I'm anxious. The one and only time I visited Anaheim was with my mother on the first of July in 1993. I do not read many biographies. Ever since I turned eighteen, my intelligence has been uneven. I have never been on a yacht. I may be an asexual. I do not like the summer. Removing a splinter gives me chills. I chew ice. Robbe-Grillet is a brilliant theorist, but a drag to read. I once stole a book from Firestone Library, but never from Widener. I have never smoked a cigar, but I've purchased one. I have never had a gun pointed at me. When I was five, I almost drowned in Bolinas Bay. I dream of a perfectly objective prose, but I know that it's an impossibility, just as a perfectly symbolic (universal) language is an impossibility. I do not believe that there is a Promised Land. I am the least successful member of my family. I have never been institutionalized. Freshly mown grass reminds me of gentle childhood days. I regret many things. I have eaten duck just once. I like to flip coffee creamers. I do not believe in God. When I was a child, I used to watch the windshield wipers with a sense of terror and astonishment: I saw a black rat spitting at the blades, causing them to fall. I tend to italicize dialogue. I think of sex when I hear the word cathedral. I was once the third ranked sprinter in the 100-meter dash (in the state). I would like to be an Actionist. I do not like the south, just as I do not like most people from the south. I have a friend from Bordeaux. My life (and death) will change nothing. My house was built in 1842. I bite my nails. The word fecund makes me think of early August. I have never punched anyone. When I was thirteen, I went for a run on a 104 degree day, and got heatstroke; I threw up on the kitchen floor. I have read two Stendhal novels. I've had a good life, but I am unable to see or feel that; I only notice things that I've lost or missed out on. I am almost always disappointed. I look at topographical maps for pleasure. I sometimes don't respond when I'm spoken to; I am lost in my thoughts. I drink cold milk with cinnamon on top. I have slept in several NYC alleys, but have slept in the subway only once. The crust on snow is delightful, especially when it carries you for more than three steps. I think my sister's handwriting is beautiful; it's small and neat like mine. I collect bits of coloured ocean glass. The best day of my life is probably already behind me.
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Reading Progress

03/05/2012 page 13
10.0% "I want never to find an ear in a meadow."
03/13/2012 page 72
60.0% "I have made love to roughly fifty women, I wonder if that's a few or a lot."

Comments (showing 1-36 of 36) (36 new)

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message 1: by Fewlas (new)

Fewlas Wow!


message 2: by Manny (new)

Manny Wow, indeed!

I once had a dream that there was a lemon tree growing in my left lung.

Was this after reading L'Ecume des jours?


message 3: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins Fantastic! Like Brainard's I Remember but possibly even more elastic.


message 4: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins My dad has never read a novel.


Matthieu I should probably edit some of this. It was all written in one burst, and I think some of it may be slightly incriminating...


Matthieu Manny: Yes, probably. That book devastated me.


message 7: by karen (new)

karen oh, man i love this


Paquita Maria Sanchez I am from the South, but I implore you not to hold it against me. I'm different from those assholes, because I always had to deal with those assholes. Made me tuff.


Matthieu I lived in Atlanta for two years...


message 10: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins Don't fucking touch it.

I mean don't edit it.


Matthieu Really? I figured I could correct some things, make it more digestible. Not just a paroxysm of feeling.


message 12: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins It's perfectly digestible. The paroxysms help it go down. It's raw but the rhythmic returning to themes with variations gives it just enough formality.


message 13: by Fewlas (new)

Fewlas Matthieu wrote: "Really? I figured I could correct some things, make it more digestible. Not just a paroxysm of feeling."

Don't even think to edit it... that's just perfect as it is! How many proposals have you received since you posted this review?


message 14: by Manny (new)

Manny Matthieu wrote: "Manny: Yes, probably. That book devastated me."

Me too. I hope you emulate Boris Vian in all respects except contracting a fatal disease and dying tragically young. I don't think it's strictly necessary.


Matthieu What do you mean by 'proposals', Giulia? Marriage proposals?

Manny: Thanks for reminding me about the Vian—I think I'll reread L'Ecume this weekend.


message 16: by Manny (new)

Manny I have, for the second time, lent my copy to someone and not got it back. I need to buy a third copy...


message 17: by Jen (new)

Jen I've read through this twice now. Both times, I think:
"Never a cavity? Never?"


message 18: by Fewlas (new)

Fewlas Matthieu wrote: "What do you mean by 'proposals', Giulia? Marriage proposals?

Manny: Thanks for reminding me about the Vian—I think I'll reread L'Ecume this weekend."


Yes, marriage proposals.


message 19: by Matthieu (last edited Mar 23, 2012 03:23AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matthieu Jen: No cavities.
Giulia: Why would I receive marriage proposals?


message 20: by Jen (new)

Jen I'm going to hazard a response, although you asked Giulia the question:

Because this review has killer charm, Matthieu!

And that, combined with your impeccable dental history, might be considered very compelling. Alluring even. To someone not like me. Someone, um, younger, and less interested in your teeth, maybe.


Matthieu My flawless teeth make up for my lousy personality.


message 22: by Fewlas (new)

Fewlas Jen gave you the answer. Maybe it's the juxtaposition of the many sides of you that creates this charming effect. One of my favourite parts is the following:

I look at geographical maps for pleasure. I sometimes don't respond when I'm spoken to; I am lost in my thoughts. I drink cold milk with cinnamon on top.


message 23: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow This made me laugh: I purchase codeine tablets from law students (we are such bastards) and cry a little even: I have two vials containing the ashes of a childhood friend.

I have a list that I keep of my favorite reviews, and I think this is one of them, so I wanted to ask if you would feel okay about me listing it there. It is public, so I didn't want to list it without asking.


Matthieu Of course! I'm very touched that you like this silly non-review.

You're not bastards; you keep me going [via pain relief]!


message 25: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow Well, we do collectively always seem to have prescription drugs around.

non-reviews are my favorite.


Matthieu I'm sure, and I'm very thankful. There are some changes that I need to make to this non-review. I won't correct it out of existence, but at present it is too verbose.


Lotus Amaris Oh I love it. I'm writing my own, but not for public reading. It's not as great as yours. Marriage proposal goes here.


Matthieu Jesse! I'm very glad/touched that you think so, but this little thing is hardly "great." You're proposing to me? I, uh, don't know what to say...


Lotus Amaris I read earlier in the comments that you hadn't been asked, or that seemed to be he implication. That's just not right. It is great, by the way; I find him to be a five star author as well.


message 30: by Matthieu (last edited Mar 23, 2012 03:27AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matthieu Well, I never expected to get any proposals (!), so I'm still trying to process all of this. Thank you.

You should read Suicide! I read it this time last year, and it blew me away.


Lotus Amaris That's another five star work, and pretty personal to me actually. Almost a predictor for how some parts of my own life unfolded. I'm wanting to gift it to someone without coming across as too morbid.


message 32: by Matthieu (last edited Mar 23, 2012 04:50AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matthieu Yeah, that 'you' often hits too close to home. That book changed me at a time when I really needed to be changed/comforted. I have a similar problem—I'd love to share that book with friends, but just the word suicide scares people away.

Why are you not going to share your Autoportrait review? Don't tell me that you're writing one, and then say that you're going to keep it a secret! That's not fair at all! I listed quite a few highly personal/embarrassing/unpleasant things here... I'm also very curious to get your perspective on it, etc. Come on, Jesse...


Lotus Amaris Ah, mine is just an appropriation of yours, so it's kind of humiliating. It's evening in my corner of thso world, so I will finish it and message you in the morning, maybe, because secrecy probably isn't a good start to our torrid engagement. ;)


message 35: by D. (new)

D. Pow brilliant matt.


Matthieu Thanks, D. I can't believe this little scribbling has caused such a commotion! You should read the book.


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