Some New Trend

Is Ignorance Bliss? :: How I Became Stupid by Kevin Wilder

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“… to die in perfect obscurity some sixty years later, leaving a body of work that would influence generations of termites.”

Martin Page’s How I Became Stupid — the English translation of Comment je suis devenu stupide — could almost pass as a novella. The philosophical story features a 25 year old Aramaic scholar who believes his overactive brain is the source of all his problems. I thought the premise was funny: a young man is unhappy, and believes the happiest people are the stupidest.

As a social experiment, Antoine aims to rid himself of every smart thing in his life. Most of the time this backfires, like when he tries to become an alcoholic or enters the hospital to receive a voluntary lobotomy. Page’s story confronts ideas of happiness and the relationship it has with intellect. Flaubert, Descartes, Nietzsche and Pascal are all quoted, but to keep the story from getting bogged-down, there’s also mention of McDonald’s as well as a fictionalized anti-depressant by the name of “Happyzac.”

Surprisingly, what keeps the story intriguing isn’t so much the premise or characters, but more the speedy passage of time. Soon we find the protagonist working as a stockbroker, accidentally earning his company millions of dollars by spilling coffee on his keyboard. The ghost of Dany Brilliant pays Antoine a visit, then eventually, he finds love from a girl who teaches him to enjoy life again. 

The story’s loose concepts could’ve gone a bit further. Actually, the goofy, fable-like elements are exactly what I wanted to see more of. As things seemed to get weirder, I found a reason to keep reading. Alright, maybe a chapter toward the end reminded me of a latter-day Family Matters episode*, but I might just be a victim of poor taste. (*Particularly “Little Big Guy”: Family Matters’ spoof on “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”, where Urkel’s transformation chamber goes haywire, shrinking him and Carl.)

If you have time to kill, Page’s novel isn’t a bad little read. But there are plenty others you may pick instead, while tanning your frontside by the poolside.

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