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Anti-Matter: Michel Houellebecq and Depressive Realism Paperback – 25 Nov 2011

3.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 105 pages
  • Publisher: Zero Books (25 Nov. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184694922X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846949227
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 0.6 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 338,365 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A searching and eloquent consideration of one of the definitive bodies of work of our time, Anti-Matter is also a vital essay on the more general difficulties of meaning-making for contemporary novelists and/or human beings. --(Benjamin Kunkel, author of Indecision and co-editor of n+1 magazine)

About the Author

Ben Jeffery lives in London. His writing has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement and the Guardian.


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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I have to agree with one of the posters below. Jeffery is clearly a well-read and intelligent critical reader (although he's not always discerning about those he quotes from), and in terms of engaging with the texts at a reasonable level of depth, he does better than a lot of people. This starts off promisingly, but I can't help but feel that the conclusions (parts of which I actually agree with), are established by means of a hodge-podge of logically inconsistent metaphysics and convenient truisms. Also, surely he could have found someone better than Ratzinger to illustrate his point about belief?

I also simply can't buy the equivalence that Jeffrey tries to slip in between market-driven/consumerist materialism, of the kind that Madonna once claimed to be a girl in favour of, and the philosophical materialism found in most many conceptions of the mind-brain problem. They're really not the same thing, and in this book they are used interchangeably.

Not wanting to be overly critical, as this is a comparatively strong piece of work on Houellebecq which makes some very valid points about the state of mind of the implied author, and also makes a (rare) attempt to explore the deterministic implications of the Houellebecquian universe in a serious way, but there are also quite a few inconsistencies and confused ideas in here.
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Format: Paperback
I read this in a single sitting. Ostensibly it's a critique of the world of Michel Houellebecq but it effectively departs that brief and becomes an elemental consideration of the value of literature itself, the relationship between reality and fiction, reasons for living and disillusion, between the reader and art, and the very bleak questions these relationships pose when honestly cross-examined. Jeffery articulates the brutal, cynical red-raw hopelessness that distinguishes Houellebecq's work, in which all of the lies and protective skins which enable us to live our lives with hope and cheer are ruthlessly stripped away. However, Jeffery refuses to accept "depressive realism" as the last word and navigates with great humanity and lucidity along a difficult route to seek out a more affirmative resolution, finally hoisting pessimism by its own petard of uncertainty.

Ben Jeffery is young but he has already found his "voice". It is, on the basis of this volume, destined to be a major one in the world of criticism and letters.
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As a Houellebecq 'fan' I found this book by Ben Jeffery disappointing and misleading. Although Jeffery does focus
to some extent on Houellebecq's novels and other writings, overall his book exploits Houellebecq in order to make the rather predictable point that pessimism and cynicism are flawed. Long tracts of Jeffery's book have nothing to do with Houellebecq but are instead cheerleader promotions for the work of David Foster Wallace, along with some inevitable bowing to the Current King of Correct Thinking, Slavoj Zizek. I don't think Jeffery really gets Houellebecq, nor does he have much in-depth grasp of the wider territory of 'depressive realism' (no Thomas Hardy, Camus, Beckett, Cioran, Dienstag, John Gray, et al.). Beckett in particular (and Simon Critchley's Beckettian analysis in his book 'Very Little') would have enlivened Jeffery's defence of art in the light of its pointlessness. Unfortunately there is too much self-serving masturbatory waffle in this book, which fails to analyse the point that most if not all of us favour philosophies or positions that project or mesh with our personalities and deep biases. Depressives do tend towards dark, nihilistic writing, optimists to Panglossian positions, and the pseudo-wise to quasi-balanced views, and each of us has his or her uncritical intellectual favourite texts and 'sacred' views. Pity too that the publication of Jeffery's book coincided with that of the English translation of 'The Map and the Territory'. Jeffery fails to 'drill down' into Houellebecq, as they say, and almost certainly possesses a moderate personality that seeks a fair-minded but somewhat boring conclusion. But a highlighting of the term 'depressive realism' goes some way to calling for more attention to writers like Houellebecq, so all is not lost here.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9d21fbe8) out of 5 stars 3 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d207f60) out of 5 stars Superb - highly recommended 10 Dec. 2011
By D. B. Stubbs - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I read this in a single sitting. Ostensibly it's a critique of the world of Michel Houellebecq but it effectively departs that brief and becomes an elemental consideration of the value of literature itself, the relationship between reality and fiction, reasons for living and disillusion, between the reader and art, and the very bleak questions these relationships pose when honestly cross-examined. Jeffery articulates the brutal, cynical red-raw hopelessness that distinguishes Houellebecq's work, in which all of the lies and protective skins which enable us to live our lives with hope and cheer are ruthlessly stripped away. However, Jeffery refuses to accept "depressive realism" as the last word and navigates with great humanity and lucidity along a difficult route to seek out a more affirmative resolution, finally hoisting pessimism by its own petard of uncertainty.

Ben Jeffery is young but he has already found his "voice". It is, on the basis of this volume, destined to be a major one in the world of criticism and letters.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d20b00c) out of 5 stars Spot-on Critique of Depressed Art 6 May 2013
By Frederick Pinto - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The tradition of pessimism is long and hallowed in both art and literature. Heck, it's a style onto itself - I'd even say to be taken seriously as a work of art, literature is expected to delve into the dark recesses of nihilism, almost to a fault. It means the author hasn't compromised truth for illusory happiness. It means he/he has been willing to enter the dark side of life to come out with pellets of authenticity. Jeffery's observations on this topic - using Houellebecq's novels as a baseline - are both astute and profound. He rightly puts the finger on the self-centered individualism and materialism that underwrites it all. When the only real thing are deemed to be the flesh and the self, all of life withers away in meaninglessness in the face of the individual's inevitable death. All else becomes commentary, and futile commentary at that. Book also goes into cool forays about the role of literature generally, and spares no brutal honesty toward its chosen topic. Not too long, stylish journalistic writing, genuine insight - not enough of these books around. Highly recommended.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9dda6ab0) out of 5 stars Review of book titled" Anti Matter" by Ben Jeffery 26 Mar. 2015
By Ijaz Durrani - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Michel Houelllebecq is possibly the the planet's most famous and enigmatic pessimist.. His gnosticism has become ubiquitous. He propagates the view that life is painful and disappointing , death is terrifying and mysterious, the human condition an unenvious exercise in schadenfreude. Michel has been 'grotesquely successful' in his thesis ; his booksf have been translated into ~ 30 different languages and Houellebecq is often hailed as the conscientious voice of the present generation.
IJAZ DURRANI
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