Saturday, March 12, 2022

figure it out


I’d spent the past five or so years watching celebrities, pundits, friends, and internet randos fall from grace for reasons as varied as sharing dumb jokes, making clumsy writing errors, accidentally showing their dong, and expressing controversial (though often widely held) opinions in the public execution chambers of social media. There had been more grievous allegations, of course—rape, pedophilia, physical abuse. But so many of these spectacles could be grouped under a more mundane heading. You can call it cancel culture. You can call it justice. All I know is that I hated it, and for five years, I kept very quiet about it.


If this is indeed Houellebecq’s last novel, as he proclaims in the acknowledgements, it is an underwhelming finale. Incensed as he may be by the indignities of the dying, he has remarkably little to say about the causes or material circumstances of their suffering. The pandemic is ultimately just an avenue for his growing spiritual preoccupations, increasingly detached from brutalities of the social.

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