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How I Became Stupid Paperback – November 30, 2004

3.5 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Four girls on a trip to Paris suddenly find themselves in a high-stakes game of Truth or Dare that spirals out of control. Learn More
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

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

Review

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

A wild yet powerful book. (Elle)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (November 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142004952
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142004951
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #790,547 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. Miller on March 8, 2005
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)
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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.
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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.
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Format: Paperback
This book was almost too clever with friends named Aas (who can only speak in poetry and glows in the dark) and Ganja (who always has some "herbal" remedy"). Still I was enjoying it until the ending which left a lot to be desired. The trip was more enjoyable than the destination. It was translated from French so maybe it's a French thing and I just don't get it.
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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 friends...in 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.
Read more ›
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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!

Harkius
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