As with all Mercedes above a certain power, with the exception of the SLR McLaren, the speed of the 600 SL is electronically limited to 250 km/h. I don't think I dipped particularly below this speed between Murcia and Albacete. There were a few long and very open bends; I had an abstract sense of power - that, no doubt, of a man indifferent to death. A trajectory remains perfect, even one that concludes in death: there can be a truck, an overturned car, an imponderable; this takes nothing away from the beauty of the trajectory.
As much as I love Michel Houellebecq (I have a poster of him in front of my typewriter), I can't help but feel that all his books are derivatives of the same themes explored so perfectly in The Elementary Particles. The above quote is from The Possibility of an Island, a book that I enjoyed, but one that wasn't nearly as pleasurable as The Elementary Particles (I suppose his themes are starting to feel a bit repetitive).
That said, Houellebecq continues to make interesting observations, and he makes a good point about religious faith - liberals just don't really get that people can believe in these crazy metaphysical propositions:
My atheism was so monolithic, so radical, that I had never been able to take these subjects completely seriously. During my days at secondary school, when I would debate with a Christian, a Muslim, or a Jew, I had always had the impression that their beliefs were to be taken ironically; that they obviously didn't believe, in the proper sense of the term, in the reality of the dogmas they professed, but that they were a sign of recognition, a sort of password allowing them access to the community of believers - a bit like grunge music was, or Doom Generation for fans of that game.
This has obvious implications for the way in which liberals view phenomenon like Islamic terrorism - from their perspective, surely some underlying political or social problem is at the root of this behaviour, which is otherwise inexplicable - and to someone who's never experienced the true ecstasy of religious experience (as I have), violence in the name of God alone seems inconceivable.
One of the core themes that runs through Houellebecq's work is the idea of reductionism as something that takes away from the meaning of our lives. This is a theme I've personally been pre-occupied with and comes up recurrently in Beta Male - indeed, having written a similar passage to the following, I'm almost shocked at the parallels (I finished the novel before I read these particular quotes):
"She is so young, so beautiful... ," murmured Vincent in a pleading tone.
One of the implications of reductionism (and frankly, of modern physics more generally) is that all true causation ultimately occurs at the level of subatomic particles. It follows, then, that insofar as humans make choices, they are no more free than the interactions between these particles, which take place in a rigorous, law-like fashion. From this, determinism follows, which the protagonist of the novel finds absolutely horrifying:
...I was too old, I had no strength left; this observation did not, however, diminish my sorrow, because from the place I now found myself in there was no way out other than to go on suffering right to the end, I would never forget her body, her skin, nor her face, and I had never felt with such clarity that human relations are born, evolve, and die in a totally deterministic manner, as inexorable as the movements of a planetary system, and that it is absurd and vain to hope, however slightly, that you can modify their course.
Contrast this perspective with that of one of the neohumans living in the post-apocalyptic landscape of the earth:
The idea that things could have been different did not cross my mind, no more than a mountain range, present before my eyes, could vanish to be replaced by a plain. Consciousness of a total determinism was without doubt what differentiated us most clearly from our human predecessors. Like them, we were only conscious machines; but, unlike them, were were aware of only being machines.
Does regret even make sense if this is true?
Something to think about.
This is one of several findings with a common theme: the farther back in time we go, the less familiar people look. And we don't have to go very far.
I feel like sophistry might be too strong a word, even if you are an anti-realist. Kind of seems like a speech one of the bad guys gives at the end of the movie.
Sometimes I watch corny motivational videos on YouTube because life is hard, and sometimes a corny motivational video on YouTube is exactly what you need to get you through the day.
Anything worth doing in life is difficult. Anything worth doing in life is a brutal grind, unless you've been blessed with inordinate talent and luck. I've wanted to quit so many things so many times I honestly can't remember all the rock bottoms I've hit over the span of my life, even over the past year.
This past couple days I ran into another failure that absolutely ripped my guts out. Sometimes the most brutal thing is to give something your absolute all, literally every ounce of strength that you have, and to still come up short. It's not even that single failure that crushes your soul, but the cumulative toll of smashing against that wall and being completely unable to break through. You bounce back from the barrier in front of you, exhausted. You've just got nothing left.
And you want to quit so bad. To just throw in the fucking towel.
Except that little voice inside of you tells you to keep going. Stubborn motherfucker, that one.
Victory comes to those who are willing to suffer for it. Will is everything.
So it's official:
I failed to get an agent for my novel.
After querying about 110 different agents across the United States, the UK, and Canada, I got a full manuscript request from two of them, both of whom declined to represent my work. There's an off-chance an un-agented press might take a chance on it, but it seems unlikely.
The funny thing is, after four and a half years of writing on-and-off, I'm not nearly as crushed as I thought I'd be. I always knew that the transgressive content of the novel would probably preclude it from being published through a major publishing house, and even if it did get an agent, it'd be very difficult to slip it through the narrow band of tastemakers that filter out works that're deemed unacceptable. A first-person novel through the eyes of a White-supremacist-misogynist was always going to be a hard sell, so I'm not really surprised that it wasn't picked up.
Although I'd definitely fantasized about getting an agent for my first book and finding traditional literary success, I'd also drawn up extensive plans for self-publishing the novel. Someone who really inspired me was Jack Cheng, a writer who ran a Kickstarter for his first novel after failing to get it traditionally published. It's a successful model for sharing your work with others through circumventing the literary gatekeepers. I'm still undecided on whether or not I'll take this route, and it'll ultimately depend on the success of the associated film projects I'll be undertaking in the coming year. A group of my artist friends have banded together and we're looking at telling the story of the novel in snippets through a series of short films, which is a project I'm super excited about.
In the final analysis, I failed, but I don't feel bad about failing. I don't regret the hundreds of hours I spent writing and re-writing this book, because I loved almost every moment of it. Making art brings me a level of joy and fulfillment that almost nothing else does. At times, I wasn't sure if I was going to write a story of the calibre that I wanted to, but eventually, I was able to meet my own internal bar of quality and I'm proud of what I accomplished. I always finish what I start.
So is this the end of Beta Male?
It remains to be seen. I'll probably sit on the manuscript for awhile before deciding whether or not to self-publish it. Even if I don't, I may attempt to find a publisher for it several years down the road, if I manage to sell another book instead.
After all, I've already started on the next one.
people I admire
Bret Easton Ellis