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How I Became Stupid Paperback – Nov 30 2004

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Product Description

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Twenty-five-year-old Parisian Antoine is sick. The disease? Intelligence. Desperate to find a cure for his overactive brain, Antoine considers alcoholism, suicide, and lobotomy, but none seems quite right for his special needs. A new job, though, is just the ticket. Accepting a position in his high-school friend's brokerage firm, Antoine finds the burdens of consciousness gradually slipping away. This delightfully over-the-top debut novel was a smash when it was published in France in 2001, but will it play as well stateside? After all, the mediocrity that Antoine deems essential to being happy in today's society features many elements common to mainstream American culture. Still, there is always an audience--if not an enormous one--for novels that skewer thick-headed simplicity, and this absurdist comedy mounts a formidable attack. Only an abrupt and puzzlingly optimistic ending detracts from the note of cheerful pessimism that drives the story. Beth Leistensnider
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


A harmonious and surprising mixture of optimism and nihilism. (La Vie Magazine)

A wild yet powerful book. (Elle)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 43 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
tis a plight for sure... March 8 2005
By M. Miller - Published on
Format: Paperback
Antoine, a twenty-five year old Frenchman, wants the finer things in life. He decrees that he shall no longer be burdened by intelligence, critical analysis, or culture. Instead, he wants to be stupid.

Now, this may seem like an idiotic thought, but to Antoine it makes sense because his attempts at becoming an alcoholic failed, after only a half-glass, and his suicide instructor accidentally led him away from the morbid path. Go figure.

Overall, this book is a glimpse, as one reviewer put it, into Antoine's "wonderful existential journey." Not too deep mind you, and that is one of the main faults. This book, sensibly enough, is especially alluring to the reader who finds that he or she relates to Antoine - pre-stupidity attempts. In this sense we feel his pain, and see a tidbit of ourselves. However, as previously mentioned, this book is short and does not offer us the expanded view, into either ourselves or existentialism in general, that we might have wanted.

(Also especially poignant for the Huckabees fan)
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Perfect gift for disaffected grad students Aug. 17 2005
By C. Tucker - Published on
Format: Paperback
This small book is a dazzling journey from the hallowed halls of academic life, wherein the main character is somewhat chronically depressed, to the bright, shiny corporate world outside (where he is breifly less depressed). Although the book does not resolve the Big Questions of existence that it brings up,I'm not sure that resolution is the point here. Page makes a brilliantly foray into the long literary conversation about the true meaning of happiness, joy, and the pursuit of knowledge. It makes a highly entertaining, smart afternoon read.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful existential journey Dec 15 2004
By Izzy - Published on
Format: Paperback
"How I became stupid" is a gracefully narrated tale of a man afflicted by his intelligence. As the character tries to escape his curse by becoming stupid he learns of his own limitations, the true value of stupidity and the importance of friendship. This type of book teaches philosophy by showing rather than telling, and it does so in a hugely entertaining and funny fashion. At fewer than 200 pages and written in a very straightforward way, the book is a great, great afternoon read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Splendid Read May 16 2008
By Jessica - Published on
Format: Paperback
How I Became Stupid is, at best, irrevocably, an enigma. It's charming, frustrating, playful, dark, whimsical yet damning, and - overall - difficult to sum its total without breaking down its parts. However; it is easy to define just what Stupid promises - or at least appears to: a witty read, rife with witticisms with which you can wittily impress upon your wit, of course. It is a cult hit after all. Yet, How I Became Stupid does manage to defy the many self-satisfied presumptions that the oft-elitist genre of alternative reading is so apt to fall to.

Despite the delightful cover and promise of a rather light read - Martin Page gives us anything but; the book, though short, is densely compact and wholly absorbing. Beneath its quick and sharp charm lies a more nuanced truth that reaches near apocalyptic suppositions. Yet, despite the "runaway train" effect that the acerbic story impresses, Martin Page dismisses the social pessimism that his character embraces in favor, however grudgingly, of a more optimistic outlook. By pointing out all the logical fallacies of such black thinking with spry humor - most especially when spiraling in the deepest depths of human misery - we are able to be left only amused and so then embrace the positive message written behind the (comically) dark events.

The premise of the book is that its main character, Antoine, believes that intelligence leads only to sufferance. With this conclusion, he embarks on a twisted odyssey to find happiness - by becoming stupid. This takes him everywhere from alcoholism, to suicide, to worldly success, and beyond.
It stands true that, throughout the novel, there remains a constant fracture between the author's stance and that of his characters. Page maintains a view pitted against the banalities of idiocy even as Antoine yearns for it. It is in this way that Page celebrates most completely the intellectualism that Antoine rebels against. Yet, then again, nothing is safe from Martin Page's exacting gaze and he is quick to point out the banality, of another sort, that intellectuals are prone to as well:

Rodolphe was a pure product of the education system and could expect to be appointed as an assistant professor within the next two years, to be promoted to university professor in about seven years, and to die in perfect obscurity some sixty years later, leaving a body of work that would influence generations of termites.

In fact the deprecation of vacuity - both of the stupid and knowledgeable kind - is a running theme of Stupid. It offers instead a celebration of true intelligence that imparts whole-hearted optimism. True optimism is Stupid's highest exaltation in antithesis to its exploration in the pessimism and destruction of the self.

Antoine is trapped in a parable covering the plight of the common man; even as he feels most estranged from them. He looses this commonality, most ironically, when he conforms to the two-dimensional caricatures of his world, and so separates himself from us, the reader; the most three-dimensional personage involved. In this greatest contradiction Page makes his greatest conclusion: society, optimism, pessimism, are all to be accepted in their edifying, self-gratifying, vacuous, and meaningful splendor.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Pretentious, But Fun Jan. 25 2005
By Harkius - Published on
Format: Paperback
As I read Martin Page's soliloquy on the penalties of intelligence, I felt almost frightened by some similarities to recent thought patterns of my own. Despite this, I enjoyed the book.

The protagonist of the story is bedeviled by his own understanding, and he suffers from the curse of the self-aware: his existence is bourgois and has no point. Seeking to avoid this realization, he attempts to find ways to deprive himself of this knowledge, including the aforementioned alcoholism, suicide, HappyZac (not to be confused with that other well-known SSRI), and other delightful distractions of modern life.

My biggest problem with the book, surprisingly, was not its pretentious nature, which I enjoyed, as it was perfect typecasting for the narrator. Rather, I didn't accept the nature of the character development. Most people will read this and understand what I mean, so I won't spoil the story. Suffice it to say, the results of spilling coffee on your keyboard are not what he was looking for, and the suggestion that this somehow led him where he ended up was a bit farcical and forced.

I must also confess a sort of bitter ambivalence toward the book as a result of having seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind recently, and the Conclusion of the book had a rather Deus ex Machina result that left me feeling a bit like Alice. The only thing that I could connect to was the movie, and I felt that was unfortunate.

A good book, well worth the afternoon it takes to read it. Read it, share it, pass it on. Don't consider it an instruction manual, though. Unless you are into that kind of thing. In which case, Backa!