Recent links of note:
“Michel Houellebecq’s obsessions”
Russell Williams, TheTimes Literary Supplement
Michel Houellebecq reached the peak of the French literary scene by depicting his country’s decadent lifestyle more skillfully than the countless French authors competing to do the same. But although his narrative voice is relentlessly cynical, Houellebecq’s constant search for new artistic outlets betrays the energy behind his worn-out persona. After his well-received forays into film, Houellebecq’s latest surprise venture is an exhibition at Paris’s Palais de Tokyo: “Rester vivant,” reviewed by Russell Williams in TheTimes Literary Supplement. Houellebecq assembled a collection of visual art to represent the scattered roots of his ideas, from photographs of suburban sprawl to a narrated tribute to his old pet Corgi. But as Williams moved along the exhibition’s course, he could sense a narrative arc tying each of Houellebecq’s obsessions together. The tone of “Rester vivant” progresses from starkly bleak, to cynical with a bit of redeeming humor, finally ending with a raw sentimentality that Russell finds rare in contemporary art. Perhaps Houellebecq’s exhibition signals a coming shift in his literary voice, in which more of his passion will find a place in his novels. Or, more likely, “Rester vivant” will prove to be a mere head fake—the author’s gambit to keep his audience guessing, lest we start to get too comfortable with his sardonic style.
“General Washington’s Standard”
Kevin D. Williamson, National Review
Britain’s startling withdrawal from the EU, in close proximity to America’s celebration of its own independence, has spurred deep reflection about how much deference we owe to our governing class. However one feels about the merits of populism (a topic that will be explored in depth throughout The New Criterion’s upcoming volume), America’s founders quite clearly believed that the people need not look up to office holders with an overdone sense of reverence. Two-hundred forty years later, with a mammoth public sector and a crop of elites filling every top office, National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson has penned a modest essay on behalf of the founders’ vision. Williamson argues that our experiment with government stripped of its pomp proved that good sense, rather than awe, is all the people need to approach public life responsibly. As today’s wave of anti-elitism continues to roll through the United States to Britain and beyond, we can expect to see the founders’ and Williamson’s hypothesis put to the test.
From our pages:
“Verse in perfect pitch”
On the style and inspiration of the late Geoffrey Hill.