Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Possibility of a Positive Review for Michel.


Never made it, it seems, to the Santa Fe Art Fair, but instead spent the whole time helping with family and hospitals, but I did manage to get all the way through M. Houellebecq's _La Possibilité d'une île_ as The Possibility of an Island as Translated by Gavin Bowd. Probably what comes to mind immediately as an entry point for me would be something to do with the interestingly developed theme of Platonism in relation to the grotesque, as in Plato was really one of original theorists of the grotesque, or priests, if you will, to veil its secret meaning, to hide it in plain sight. But like M.H. seems to do, he complicates every theme with good literary explication and interrelation. Replacing Platonic idealized geometry with 'data', Michel wonderfully collapses metaphysics into the interspeciation of structurality, something which seems like I've thought of before, or even seen, in a slightly less contemporary form in poetry, but you can enter that meditation itself along several lines anyway, one of which being something like, matter is always already the immortal formal anyway, thus rendering metaphysics the confugu(e)rability of an infinite assymetry, or barring our absolute uniqueness in the universe, our remote species of singularity, ie the grotesque re epistemology. There's also the anguishing of Platonic relations between humans, and the countering of that sexually with both good and bad relations, or anguished carnality, in short, Michel sort of comments on Plato's catalogue of the types of love. There's probably a good deal more to unpack with this, but, in its more science fictiony side, the book seems to echo both a Ballardian space, and something like David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas though inflected with Michel's own acerbic personalized more Célinesque ironics, something even fairly close world-wise to Frank Miller's Hard Boiled graphic novel which in its combination of extreme violence and pornography in certain atmospheric scenes presages Michel's futurustic black-comediana. While the racist elements have seemed to trouble critics, for me, I saw in this, something more along the lines of an abject existentialism in which racial attitudes are predetermined much in the way the critics do. In a sense, there is clearly in Michel's attitudes toward both sexuality and race, among other issues, an expression of a Negative Dialectic. What critics fail to see I think is that by approching negativity 'positively', Michel opens the space of these ethical aporias into a more democratic or 'depressive' modulus, revealing the pathos of language itself, its fundamental failure, and contagion as negativity, as well as honestly stating that often our experience of subjectivity, of ourselves, and others, as individuals and groups, is often, repugnant, or simply, idiotic, in the grand scheme of the world, and in all the possible avenues of abstraction. I may comment more on this or rewrite this, but the book was a very good read, and I think I may read it again. There is a certain echo with small French novels like Huysman's Against Nature, and Michel himself cites both Balzac and Moliere, and there is quite a bit of interesting language, though language in the novel is kept very consistent throughout. I can remember only skimming at most 2 pages in the whole novel, digressions of which were unimportant relatively to the action of the story which I was really very interested in. The ending particularly has a very J.G. Ballard feel to it, and I am left after reading two of Michel's books that in the end, he is doing very literary work, but modulating it into a more pop contemporary space engineered for readability. I think he could easily come out of with an Infinite Jest sized work, but his work lends itself to shorter formats, or really, I can imagine him thinking a work that long would be tedious, much in the way he clips and submerges the theoretical infrastructure, and even goes so far to have his character say that he hates 'theory'.. Very solid, interesting contemporary work.