Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: "The Map and the Territory" by Michel Houellebecq

Since I am making a big move across the country in a short time, I have been taking a look back at some of the things I enjoyed from the past. Whether it is old movies or TV shows, I’ve been giving them one last look before I move on. And books are no different. I realized a little bit ago, that I had not read a Michel Houellebecq book since my junior year of high school, so I read his most recent novel, The Map and the Territory, and while it is far from fantastic, it is an appropriate book for me to be reading at this juncture in my life. While his first three novels, Whatever, The Elementary Particles and Platform (I have yet to read The Possibility of an Island) are filled with nihilistic musings, graphic sex, and a complete distaste for modern life, this new novel is toned down a bit, and, at parts, is actually hopeful about the future of the human race. The novel focuses on a successful painter/photographer named Jed Martin, who lives in France, is alone after dating a supermodel, and is slowly watching his dad succumb to old age. In a funk, symbolized by the faulty plumbing in his flat, he befriends Michel Houellebecq in Ireland, in a fictitious turn that actually works. While not the unpleasant man on display in the media, he is more of a loner, comfortable with his isolation. Jed agrees to paint his picture, but soon after, the writer is found brutally murdered. This is not a spoiler, but it does happen very late in the book, switching gears in a way that jars the reader. But this last section ahs the most memorable and real moment, when Jed’s father makes a rational yet heartbreaking decision. The book’s ambiguity will frustrate some, myself included, and this is a very different book than the ones I read in high school.

Rating: 4/5

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