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Posted October 5, 2003
Michel Houellebeqc's highly-praised novel 'The Elementary Particles' was a big disappointment to me. Pardon moi, but I have never understood the typical French author. Their stories always seem to involve lengthy periods of glib ennui punctuated by short bursts of meaningless sex and violence. Ditto for French films. The only French author I ever enjoyed was Camus, but that was mainly because of his crystal-clear style of writing. Houellebequ (pronounced Wellbeck) is no new Camus as touted. 'The Elementary Particles' staggers between countless flashbacks and the present like a Parisian wino. Houellebequ raises several questions about the impact of quantum theory which have always intrigued me, then he falls flat on his face in trying to answer them plausibly. The last part of the novel leaps forward into the future where many struggling authors tend to go when they don't know the right way to end a book. In between there is an awful lot of jerking off. In fact the entire novel reminded me of mental masturbation: get all worked up about an IDEA for a book, then suffer the humiliation of premature plot ejaculation and leave the reader to clean up the sticky mess. It's too bad a talented novelist didn't tackle the same subject matter. The startling discoveries of quantum physics and Bell's Theorem are fertile ground for a new kind of fiction. If 'The Elementary Particles' is representative of 21st century literature, I'm glad I won't be around to read the books printed in the 22nd century.
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