Empty Days

Thursday, June 24, 2004



Here's the reason Houellebecq has no qualms playing himself up to the media. That's what you do - when you could care less:
An hour or so later, in a gilded salon of the Hotel Bristol, before literary Paris’s smartest, a shabby figure in a baggy sweater and rumpled scarlet jeans took his check and—in the spirit of his novel—declined to wallow in bourgeois expressions of pleasure or gratitude. Not all were charmed. “It’s an insult to the members of the jury,” one French publisher whispered to me, “for him to accept the prize without having washed or gone to the dry cleaner’s.”
That was Julian Barnes describing how Houellebecq accepted his Prix Novembre, instead of Prix Goncourt. Nice jeans, dude.

Or this:
It also made him rich and famous, although hanging out with him in Dublin, you would never know it. His wardrobe -- a pair of dingy chinos and a couple of flannel shirts -- suggests graduate-student asceticism. Ditto his diet: coffee and tobacco leavened by the occasional bender. ("I don't like to eat," he told me. "I only like sex.") The bookshelves in his town house are cheap, and the wallpaper is beginning to peel. (Houellebecq and Marie-Pierre, whom he married in 1998, plan to move to a house on an island off the southwest coast of Ireland where there are more sheep than people.) Houellebecq said that having money has changed his life in one crucial respect only: it has allowed him to escape "the nightmare" of being an employee. Fame is a more ambiguous blessing. "It's too much pressure," he complained. Then again, he conceded, "my sex life is richer."
Not quite your bobo shit, is it? Anyway - it's always a good question to consider why people write and publish; and 80% of the time there is no good reason except some shit like fame and prestige and status. No great writer is ever born out of such utter futility.





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