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The Mystery Guest

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  813 ratings  ·  150 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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3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  813 ratings  ·  150 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
Jun 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ein vollkommen unerwarteter Anruf am Sonntagnachmittag reißt den 30-jährigen Ich-Erzähler, der ein literarisches Alter Ego von Grégoire Bouillier ist, aus der Lethargie, in die er gefallen ist, seit ihn einige Jahre zuvor seine Geliebte verlassen hat; als wäre nichts Außergewöhnliches daran, ruft eben sie den Liebesversehrten an und lädt ihn ein, als Überraschungsgast auf der Feier der „bekannten zeitgenössischen Künstlerin“ Sophie Calle zu erschienen. Überrascht über sich selbst sagt der Erzähl ...more
Jul 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
"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."
Apr 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Nicco by: Garrett Graff
A delight. The absolute force of the narrative carries you through the pathetically, hilariously French story.
Terminei de ler ontem O convidado surpresa, do Bouillier. Livro pequeno, com pouco mais de 100 páginas, todo escrito em fluxo de consciência, com clara inspiração no Ms. dalloway, da Woolf e no Ulisses do Joyce. Digo isso porque os livros são referenciados na obra, e talvez o que mais levarei da obra são os desejos de ler esses clássicos.
Pois bem, o livro retrata uma desilusão amorosa de bouillier, de uma mulher que o abandonou sem explicações e, anos depois, o convida para ser o convidado surpr
Feb 14, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Feb 23, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
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
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
Ryan Chapman
Mar 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 10, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Roniel Tessler
Oct 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
If you're looking for an angrier version of Dave Eggers, this is your guy. He writes beautifully and truthfully, and with a stream-of-consciousness I totally related to, though also with a hopeful ending I'm not sure I share. Filled with little lines you'll want to savor. This book is great if you've ever hated an ex, and tried to find continued meaning in their existence as it relates to your life.
Sep 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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.
Sep 03, 2007 rated it liked it
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.
Aug 15, 2007 rated it it was ok
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.
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.
Nov 28, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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...
Jaclyn Michelle
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing

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.
Michael Smith
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love this perfect little book, and it left me feeling how I did after reading Sophie Calle’s The Address Book—one of my all-time favorites. It’s no surprise to learn they ended up together for a few years.

Nov 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-library
A truly unique and delightful little memoir! A must read for the literary set.
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Un étonnant petit ouvrage, impétueux, drôle et tragique, à la fois anecdotique et substantiel.
Jonathan Lee B.
The Mystery Guest is a waiter reciting a too-long list of specials.
Mar 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Lorri Steinbacher
Not as interested in this book as I thought I'd be.
Laurent Szklarz
Curieux petit livre. Autant dans le style que dans la forme. L'auteur nous décrit un Evénement dans sa vie. Ni plus ni moins. L'intérêt? C'est selon
B. Glen Rotchin
Feb 21, 2012 rated it liked it
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
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Goodreads Librari...: General issues 4 31 May 11, 2016 10:36AM  
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  • American Elf: The Collected Sketchbook Diaries, Vol. 2
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  • Kees de jongen
  • The Collected Stories
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.