I had been reading a lot of fantasy novels at the end of last year, so I decided I wanted to read something a little different over the holidays, and I settled on the amusing satire, How I Became Stupid by Martin Page.
This novel details the adventures of Antoine as he searches for happiness, which, he has decided, will be best achieved by finding a way to reduce his intelligence. His attempts to live as an “ordinary man” border on the ridiculous, and he tries everything from alcohol to stock brokering in search of a cure. Surrounded by a cast of wacky characters, Antoine’s world is both crazily odd and yet strangely relatable.
Although I thought this book started off as an amusing read, by the end I was a bit conflicted on my overall impression. On one hand, I actually think the concept is sort of brilliant, and many of Antoine’s attempts at slowing his mind are hilarious. On the other hand, I feel like this book didn’t strike the right balance between ridiculous satire and social commentary. While the book did point out a lot of flaws in today’s society, the ending felt muddled and rushed, and didn’t seem to flow naturally with the rest of the story. I don’t know if I would say that I am confused about the overall message of the book, I would say that the message felt like it was forced on the reader by the abrupt ending, rather than growing more organically out of the story. It really felt like the author had a good idea, but was never able to fully flush it out, and then rushed an ending to meet a publication deadline. While I enjoyed the majority of the book, the abrupt ending sort of killed all of my warm fuzzy feelings.
I don’t think I would recommend this book as a must read, but I do think the beginning of the book is humorous and does have some merit. I am glad I read it, but I don’t think this book necessarily has broad appeal. If you want a quick read that proposes some interesting thoughts, it is worth the time, but if you want a great novel that will shower you with insights to the meaning of life then you would probably be best off looking elsewhere.
Clearly, the months between my reading it and actually posting a review (I wrote it a while ago, but delayed the posting) is some indication of my ambivalence.