Thursday, November 26, 2009

A newspaper asked for my favorite books of the 2000s, a favorite and a Canadian favorite. After submitting my picks I realized I had exceeded their word limit. For the record:

Plateforme (2001)

At the moment, my favorite book of the past ten years is Plateforme (2001) by Michel Houellebecq. I have returned to this book many times, in the way I return to restaurants because I’ve had good meals there, or I like the staff, the d├ęcor -- where eventually the relationship deepens, achieves the kind of overtone I hope for in all things. Plateforme is not a perfect novel. As in most of Houellebecq’s poorly-written fictions we meet a misanthrope who accepts the market as the arbiter of all human relations, be they economic, social or personal. If there is hope in this book it lies in the reader's potential to recognize the relationship between the author’s crippled syntax and his narrator’s crippled subjectivity. Whether Houellebecq writes "badly" on purpose (or whether he behaves badly in person) is irrelevant. The book works in part because the form (the author’s prose) relates to the content (an alienated narrator). Michel Houellebecq is the only writer I know who writes about the world from the top down.

The Night is A Mouth (2008)

For the past couple months, my favorite Canadian book of the past ten years has been The Night is A Mouth (2008) by Lisa Foad. I have chosen this book because it is new, the last best book I’ve read (and are we not like that with new things, how the new temporarily obliterates all that comes before it?) Foad’s poetic fictions concern the lives of girls and women. But these are not the carefully-beaded stories of Alice Munro, nor are the transgressions as guarded as those of conservative postmoderns like Zsuzsi Gartner. Foad’s extremism parallels the world we live in today, just as de Sade attempted earlier, when he had the audacity to show us that a woman’s body was not a site of reproduction but one of (her) pleasure. There is humour here. Tears too. At times the writing is jagged, not unlike the way our brain goes spazz when suddenly faced with danger.

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