Short Reviews: January 2020
Garrett Jones, Hive Mind: This had been on my list for a few years and did not underwhelm. Jones is a master of the pop-econ book, turning a complex and novel attempt to solve a puzzle about IQ into an exciting and accessible work. There are also many surprising pieces of wisdom in the book, such as how smart people are able to work together effectively (three Ps: more patient, more pleasant, and more perceptive) and the dangers of carpe diem.
Michel Houellebecq, Seratonin: I had been determined to read this at its launch since I heard it was coming out. I had read the oft-misinterpreted Submission and really enjoyed it. I was a bit disappointed. It has the brilliant thinly-veiled ranting and social critique one comes to expect from Houellebecq, but seems to suggest that a lot could be fixed with some French agricultural subsidies. Houellebecq is a very incisive social thinker, but not a great economist. There is something to be said about changing economic conditions, but this book does not quite hit it on the nose for me. It is not a bad book, but this is a central theme and it is frustrating.
Michel Houellebecq, Elementary Particles: This book was my third of Houellebecq’s, after Submission and Seratonin. I think it may be his best. The book is his tour de force critique of the modern world. For the first 100 pages or so, I was confused about why Houellebecq was telling his reader so much about his protagonist’s lineage. Then I realize he had to. Houellebecq wants to argue that the turn of the 20th Century onwards has led to an inevitable march to the dismal present, wherein every path one can choose to its own sort of depravity. Thus, in the surprisingly sci-fi turn of the novel’s end, humanity must cede the Earth to something new. This must be one of the great reactionary novels ever, but one suspects some part of Houellebecq may still think we can change our course and perhaps he even seeks to provoke us into doing so.
Reading three books by one author, especially a contemporary one, is usually a good amount. There are a lot of things to read. But I am still curious about The Map and the Territory.