Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)

As someone obliged to regard the artistic endeavours of my (oh so advanced) three-and-a-half year-old daughter with the frowning awe of a latter-day Clement Greenberg, I found this odd project weirdly compelling.Link via Boing BoingMore substantial posts on the way, I hope, including a very belated critique of what I consider to be some very problematic facets of Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America (which I’ve just got around to finishing) and Michel Houellebecq’s latest, which so underwhelmed me that I was uncharacteristically willing to loan it to a friend going on holiday, despite the fact I had reached only about page 160 (that’s around the point where H’s narrator begins providing resolutely unerotic descriptions of receiving oral sex on demand from a complaisant lover 20 years his junior (perhaps it’s the fly-leaf photograph of a cadaverous-looking Houellebecq, glanced while turning the pages, that caused the sexual exploits of Daniel 1–a thinly disguised proxy for the author–to make me feel a tad queasy. In this reader’s mind’s eye there was an unwelcome vision of the apparently somnolent Frenchman (once described as bearing a passing resemblance to Arthur Scargill) engaged in prolonged sessions of pornography-perfect sex. Such a criticism might seem crudely ad hominem, but in my defense I’d claim that Houellebecq in this apparently highly autobiographical novel readily invites such mockery. The voice of blackly comic despair from the earlier books has become, through familiarity and success, closer to the opinionated whine of the bored and pampered. Houellebecq, holed up, like his narrator, in his luxurious Spanish beachside villa, brings to mind a line from a writer with whom he has much in common, Philip Larkin: “The shit in the shuttered chateau.”On the subject of Larkin, his final (?) published poem, Aubade, says more about the terror of death in 50 lines, in fact, is simply more terrifying, than the 160 pages I’ve read of The Possibility of an Island.)But then again, maybe I’ll change my mind when I actually finish the book. I could do an about-turn and declare it a “work for our times.” In any case, I’m rambling for far longer than I planned. Plus I have to tackle Roth and his vision of his fellow Americans in jackboots first.