Frenchman Gregoire Bouillier has had a colorful and downright strange life according to his "Report on Myself." This review's titular quote, snatched from his pithy and intriguing memoir, sums up the wild, double-edged nature of his existence so far. It's worth a voyeuristic visit.
In each chapter of this short book we drop into a random stage of Mr. Bouillier's life. His supremely dysfunctional parents fight, swing, cheat, and divorce, with the hapless young Gregoire irradiated by the fallout of their actions. I suppose if this were an American family the author would've rammed himself through years of hand-wringing therapy. Indeed some traumas, like his molestation by his older brother, would've rated entire books in our culture. But here that disturbing occurrence only gets a cursory paragraph. C'est la vie, I guess.
A running theme throughout "Report on Myself" is the influence of past occurrences on Mr. Bouillier's present circumstances. For example, as a child he experienced the sudden disappearance of a friend and his family, including the beautiful matron he became smitten with after accidentally seeing her nude. Later in life, one of his loves dumps him by pulling her own vanishing act (we see the aftermath in his other memoir, "The Mystery Guest"). He links events like these together in a synergistic fashion, as if the past was a dry run that equipped him to make sense of present distress. Even certain books, such as Homer's "Odyssey," lend structure to his journey. A little weird, but then again I've coped with reality in a similar fashion, so I'm glad to see that I'm not alone.
The major angst in the author's life results from his stormy romantic relationships. His first adult relationship with a relatively conventional woman bores him, so he gravitates toward a couple of high-maintenance paramours with, ah, issues. Based on the anecdotes about his mercurial mother, a pop psychologist might diagnose a long-running oedipal complex, but I'll leave that to the experts. Whatever the state of Mr. Bouillier's unconscious mind, when it comes to his love life he exults in the highs, endures the lows, and tries to make sense of relational disintegration.
Mr. Bouillier has the ability to make interesting observations by being present in some parts of his life and removed from others. He can take a passionate or uncomfortable moment and plop us down right there with him. Conversely, the author is able to remove himself from an event and dispassionately comment upon it, leaving us to make our own judgments. I found either path intriguing. I'm glad I've avoided some of his pitfalls, but he's certainly had a number of exciting rides that trigger my envy reflex.
At any rate, "Report on Myself" is an intimate look at a man's relationships and how he uses the past to help him make sense of his present. I recommend reading this with "The Mystery Guest," which provides more detail about the aftermath of his stormiest and most affecting romantic relationship.