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4.0 out of 5 stars A Map of Artistic Success
The main characters are fascinating, especially the artist hero (Jed) and Houellebecq himself. I found it an interesting move for the author to inject himself into his own novel, and Houellebecq keeps the suspense going nicely, keeping us wondering when he himself is going to appear. And his final appearance is a show stopper (no spoilers ...) The story is, mostly, a...
Published 1 month ago by William Shardlow

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1.0 out of 5 stars The Nap and the Snoozity
The Prix Goncourt must be France's version of the Booker Prize because "The Map and The Territory" won it last year and, reading it this year, I get the same feeling of tiredness and boredom when reading a Booker Prize winner. This is strange too because I was looking forward to this one having loved Houellebecq's previous books "Platform" and...
Published on 8 Dec 2011 by Sam Quixote


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4.0 out of 5 stars A Map of Artistic Success, 6 Sep 2014
This review is from: The Map and the Territory (Paperback)
The main characters are fascinating, especially the artist hero (Jed) and Houellebecq himself. I found it an interesting move for the author to inject himself into his own novel, and Houellebecq keeps the suspense going nicely, keeping us wondering when he himself is going to appear. And his final appearance is a show stopper (no spoilers ...) The story is, mostly, a bildungsroman centred on Jed, starting as a portrait of the artist as a young man, and then taking you all the way through his life. The relationship with his architect father is well drawn, and we are left wondering if Jed and/or his father are, or will be, successful artists. Eventually, all is revealed, alongside many intriguing musings on the nature of art, society, and success. These, mostly, avoid pretentiousness while maintaining seriousness. There's a detective story in the mix that plods on a bit too long, and some minor characters who are rather tedious and two dimensional, so a star off for that. But, overall, definitely worth a read.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent vintage Houellebecq, 9 Oct 2011
By 
Ann Fairweather (England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
One sure thing about Houellebecq: he is not for everyone. If you don't 'get him', you will hate him. If you do, then you're in for a treat. This latest novel is different in tone to the prior ones. He has lost some of his bite, lots of his cynicism and nearly all of his shock-power. Like wine, with time he seemed to have mollify his taste. But it does not make the novel any less good and fascinating. Not for nothing that it won him the prestigious 'Prix Goncourt' in France. The hero is desabused Jed, a man flotting in life with no real grip on it. Yet he is suddenly sized by inspiration and becomes a sensationnal photographer of Michelin maps that leads him to international reputation. The fame helps him to attract beautiful and successful Olga with whom he develops a subdued relationship. But everything seems to be subdued for Jed, and he takes his own success in his stride with no real enthusiasm. Then Olga leaves to run a new branch of the business in Russia (she is Russian) and his life goes back to total lack of stimulus. Yet years passing, inspiration sizes him again and moving back to painting, his original skill, he creates a serie of 'metiers' or 'craftmanship' and again, finds immediate huge recognition. To write the catalogue of his coming exhibition, he needs a writer and asks Houellebecq for his help. In a very funny and convincing way, Houellebecq then enters his own novel as himself. Then ensue probably some of the finest moments in the book, when Jed goes to Ireland to visit him at several occasions. He describes himself pointedly and candidly, but without the slighest trace of narcissism as very few writers would manage. Later in the book the plot switches to dramatic effects and, as in many of his other books, Houellebecq leaves us with a great sadness and melancholy.
A superb and stange and fascinating novel, if you're not afraid of the unusual. Houellebecq's take on our world is devastatingly pessimistic and ironic and with an exact clairvoyance that very few people really enjoy to encounter.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book., 28 Jan 2013
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This review is from: The Map and the Territory (Paperback)
You don't read Houellebecq to be bouyed and uplifted, but reading him really makes you think, and he holds a magnifying glass to modern society like few other writers. I only wish my French was good enough to read him in French. The only English-speaking writer I can think of that does the societal dissection things as well is Morton Bain.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Adapting, 20 April 2014
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This review is from: The Map and the Territory (Paperback)
I often found Michel Houellebecq rash and over the top in his earlier work, but still it felt genius. He seems to be mellowing out with age and some of the beauty that falls into his work is more salient now. The reoccuring theme of love is still present but it feels more sincere and optimistic. The transition is similar to in my literature class; going from Larkin to Abse.
The book came quickly and was in mint condition, as expected.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A compassionate view of humanity, 26 Jun 2013
I was moved by this novel and I'll think about it and perhaps dream about it. I think we're at a watershed moment and Houellebecq is indicating that this is so. Nobody else I've read is able to sum up so perfectly where we are now and hint at what we could be.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best contemporary French writers., 5 May 2013
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This review is from: The Map and the Territory (Paperback)
Michel Houellebecq is a great writer. Everything seems so real, it always makes you think. I had a great time reading it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Odd Book But Worth A Look In, 17 Dec 2012
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Emily Marbach (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Map and the Territory (Paperback)
I am really happy that my book club chose this book to read. I never would have read it. It is one of those books that one enjoys more upon reflection than when you are plodding through it.
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1.0 out of 5 stars The Nap and the Snoozity, 8 Dec 2011
By 
Sam Quixote - See all my reviews
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The Prix Goncourt must be France's version of the Booker Prize because "The Map and The Territory" won it last year and, reading it this year, I get the same feeling of tiredness and boredom when reading a Booker Prize winner. This is strange too because I was looking forward to this one having loved Houellebecq's previous books "Platform" and "Lanzarote" (granted, "Possibility of an Island" was near unreadable but I was willing to let bygones be bygones) so it was with some measure of disappointment that I finally gave up on this 291 page novel at page 164.

The "story" is about an artist who becomes the toast of French art first by taking photos of parts of Michelin maps and then later painting captains of industry and artists. He then decides to have the famous writer Michel Houellebecq (yes he is a character in the book) write the programme for his latest exhibition. And that's really all that happened in the 164 pages I read and where I gave up.

164 pages and all that's really gone into is the artist's dull life, his dull relationships with women, with his aging father, his dull art, and then an encounter with Houellebecq. This was the only part of the book I enjoyed, where the writer got to riff on himself in the book, making him out to be a drunken mess who lived in squalor and was borderline insane. I know a lot of writers put themselves in their work and sometimes this pays off (think Bret Easton Ellis in Lunar Park or Paul Auster in City of Glass) and sometimes it doesn't (Stephen King in the later Dark Tower books) but it really worked in this book.

But really, 164 pages and near nothing happens? Couple this with Houellebecq's inscrutably dense writing style in this book (heavy on description, always - a car is never a car, he has to describe the make, model, and colour, as well as a note on some banal detail about it) and it's a very difficult read. I kept hoping for something to happen but when the artist got back with his dull Russian girlfriend and Houellebecq began describing yet another cocktail party in extreme detail (what food they were eating, how it was prepared, what they were drinking, how it was made, what clothes people were wearing, their hairstyles) I realised I had to stop reading for my own sanity.

I wanted to like this book but unfortunately the burden of detail in a book lacking in any story and with too much time spent with the dullest of characters (Houellebecq only makes it into a couple of scenes unfortunately) made for a plodding novel with not enough to keep me turning the pages. It's not nearly as interesting as his previous books and in fact is just plain boring.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars thoroughly absorbing, maybe Houellebecq's best book so far, 17 Jan 2012
By 
terence dooley (camelford, cornwall United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Houellebecq is streets ahead of most current English language novelists, if not all, in terms of originality, believability, quality of prose (in the French) and sheer readability.
This novel follows an artist's life mostly through his 3 or 4 inspired periods, and makes one both see and want to see the works. It parodies or assimilates or modernises the Balzac novel of ambition and success in Paris, Proust's party scenes, even Maigret on a difficult case. It creates with splendid humour and blitheness the character 'Michel Houellebecq' and sends him to a sticky end. It also meditates on fathers and sons and depression through the generations, and passionately rejects assisted suicide. Then it diverts into little rather convincing sociological homilies and dystopian, but mildy so, futurology. It covinces and entertains almost all the way, though perhaps it isn't very good on women, who always seem to emerge as robots in Houellebecq's world. Highly recommendable.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More style than substance., 2 Jun 2012
In reading other reviews of this novel, I'm struck by the terms in which admiration for both writer and novel are expressed. "If you don't get him, you will hate him." Houellebecq is "pushing the boundaries" etc. What it is that we uninitiated fail to get and what these boundaries are remain misty. I have the feeling that for some the novel is protected from criticism because those who might deride it are doing so from principles and touchstones unequal to the dimension within which M.Houellebecq's work operates. To me this smacks of a curious mixture of arrogance and defensiveness.

In fairness, at this point I'd better make some confessions: this is my first acquaintance with this author and I read the novel in English so cannot assess the quality of the translation, though as someone else comments, the proofreading is abysmal.

When newspaper reviewers use terms such as "caught up in a tropical storm" and "blown away by the ferocity of his imagination" I find myself groping at a loss. The story of a photographer/painter, his relationship with a beautiful Russian woman and with his father is handled with a studied coolness against a background of sophisticated, cultural affluence. The central character, Jed, lacks wit or warmth, merging effortlessly into the glossy, sophisticated world of Parisian high commerce and culture, not least when he flouts some their tribal codes of dress and conduct. The novel starts with a tableau and thereafter offers a series of static scenes. Of course standing apart from this world of an advertiser's fantasies is the writer himself, a recluse, self-consciously, but very familiarly eccentric. We are told that there is love between Jed and Olga, but only the most ineffective and conventional gestures suggest any depth of feeling; there is all the passion and affection that binds Barbie and Ken, figures they alarmingly resemble. Is that the satirical intention? The final section is in quite a different key. Two flesh and blood characters, Jasselin and his young protégé, command the stage. Here realism and surrealism merge convincingly to grip attention, but what symbolic significance the horrors and their fastidious descriptions have eludes me. There is, though, a portentous presence of meaning that may for some cohere into a resolution to this curious novel. If, and it may be quite otherwise, the Prix Goncourt is the French equivalent of the Mann Booker prize, then I'm not particularly surprised that this novel is so highly regarded. Sadly, it seems to me to lack vitality and more importantly that powerful impact that precedes intention and meaning and is the common factor that unites all really fine novels.
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The Map and the Territory
The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq (Paperback - 7 Jun 2012)
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