Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Gregoire Bouillier's The Mystery Guest: An Account

Recently read The Mystery Guest: An Account by Gregoire Bouillier. Not bad, but I was a bit underwhelmed. (I'm betting it was Mark Sarvas who influenced a friend into recommending it to me.) Still, a couple passages made it into my virtual commonplace book:
“...and we never stop clinging to the idea that things could always be worse. When I was little, wasn’t that just what they used to tell me to quiet me down?” –p.66

“...but wherever I looked all I saw was merchandise and nothing of any value except the value assigned to each thing in its turn by society, and nowhere I looked did I see any object that seemed to incarnate anything more than profit and gain, and in every direction lay all the commodities of the world expressing nothing so much as a degraded idea of The Gift, an idea contrary and, in a word, hostile to the idea of The Gift rightly understood, and the last thing I wanted was to arrive at that party bearing a gift that would shed its mystique the moment the colored paper and ribbon had been torn aside. And all at once I saw why our societies use gift wrap: not for the sake of surprise but rather to cover up the fact that The Gift is based on a lie, as we inevitably discover every time somebody gives us something, yes, and we open it and, after a microsecond when we expect the fulfillment of our deepest desire, disgust and sadness wash over us and we smile as fast as we can and say thank you, the better to bury our chagrin at never once in all our lives receiving something more than what we’d hoped for. And this evanescent joy, forever disappointed, remains incomprehensible to us.” – pp33-4



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