This is the second Houellebecq novel that I have read. Usually when I talk about why I like novels it usually has to do with the great characters that I identified with or the amazing plot or the entertaining action. Houellebecq provides none of these things. In fact, while I was reading this book, my daughter asked me what the book was about and I went uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
His characters are unhappy and disfunctional. Houellebecq's books create controversy to the point that he has ended up in court defending himself and his motivations. He explores the sexual lives of his characters sometimes in great detail. He writes passages that could be construed as racist. Houellebecq does make me uncomfortable at times, but I believe good literature is supposed to make us flinch. His characters are analytical about their lives to the point that even moments of joy are destroyed before the character can even experience the happiness. I generally lose patience with books about epically unhappy people.
So why do I like reading Houellebecq novels?
Houellebecq is intellectual and smart and I like his analysis of what motivates people. Love is merely a chemical reaction. To think I'm being manipulated by chemical reactions instead of something larger, nebulous, mythical, and romantic does take some of the sparkle off the apple. It is interesting though from time to time to step back and look at what motivates me without an emotional element attached. I do make better decisions when I take enough time to let the impulsive first rush of thoughts subside and look at the issue with a certain amount of dispassionate distance. All that aside I certainly never want to look at everything from such an intellectual perspective that all the juice is sucked out of my life. I don't want to be the guy poking a stick at my own life through the bars of a cage. I think that is really why I like reading Houellebecq's books because he reminds me actually of how much I like my life, and even though I can make improvements mostly with more informed decisions; I don't want to spend the bulk of my life over examining my life to the point that I quit living my life. That in my opinion is a form of intellectual suicide.