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Book Review October 28, 2003
Love Smites
By John Dolan Browse author Email
Page 3 of 3
If you've ever waded through a Lonely Planet guide, you've felt this. But you'd have a hard time saying it nearly as well, or getting it into print if you did. It's simple enough, Houellebecq's scorn, but it's so true and so long overdue that you inhale it, reread it a half dozen times, think up people and publishers you want to email it to -- so hungry are you for a little truth.

But the real beauty of Houellebecq's polemic against the "humanitarian Protestant cunts" who rule us is revealed when Michel flings the Guide de Routard across his hotel room and picks up a Grisham novel left in the room by a previous guest. As his contemptuous summary shows, Grisham's pulp is no more than the same HPC's on their home ground.

Then Michel develops an interest in Valerie, one of his fellow tourists, and to his own surprise, their relationship develops into deep trust and love. It's not exactly the Tom Cruise version, since Michel and Valerie regularly engage in happy and pleasant group sex with anyone who strikes their fancy.

What's such a wonderful surprise about this novel is that Houellebecq manages to smite so many deserving targets so well while developing a convincing love story, the very last sort of plotline you'd expect from him.

A second murder mystery ends the love story, when nameless Muslim terrorists kill Valerie just as she and Michel have decided to leave the rot of Europe to settle in Southern Thailand. One of the finest polemical touches of the novel is Houellebecq's account of the way progressive French opinion gloats over the death of Valerie and fellow sex-tourists, crowing that these vile debauchees got no more than what they deserved. Something about the passage conveys with sickening force the full horror of Western Europe hijacked by "humanitarian Protestant cunts."

Speaking as a very unsatisfied consumer of Lonely Planet's guide to Laos, I truly hope that this book provokes mass burnings of Lonely Planet and Guide de Routard travel books, especially those dealing with Southeast Asia. Anything that discomfits the "humanitarian Protestant cunts" who write and disseminate books like that is OK with me.

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