With the holidays looming comes the prospect of parties to attend. If that proposition fills you with dread, here are a few handy tips from Michel Houellebecq, a seemingly unlikely purveyor of self-help. Then again, he may know what he’s talking about going by the memorably miserable party scenes in his books, notably the opener of Extension du Domaine de la Lutte in which the protagonist, having downed four vodkas, starts to feel ill, proceeds to collapse onto a pile of cushions behind a sofa where subjected to eavesdropping on a punishingly vapid conversation about the merits of miniskirts in the workplace he eventually drifts off, only to find on resurfacing that he’s vomited all over the carpet. After moving some cushions over to cover up the vomit, he decides it’s time to leave, but it turns out somewhere along the night, he lost his keys.

—Dorna Khazeni


The point of a party is to make us forget we are solitary, wretched and betrothed to death; in other words, to transform us into animals. Which is why savages have a highly developed party sense. Light up a bunch of hallucinogenic buds, shake a couple of tambourines, and presto! it doesn’t take much. At the other end of the spectrum, the average guy in the west acquires insufficient quantities of ecstasy only after endless raves whence he emerges deaf and drugged up. He has no party sense whatsoever. Profoundly self-conscious, radically estranged from others, terrorized by the idea of death, he’s quite incapable of achieving any form of exaltation. And still he persists. The loss of his animal state saddens him and breeds shame and rancor. He would like to be a partier or at least to pass for one. He’s in a tough spot.

What am I doing with these idiots?

“For when two or three gather together in My name, there I am with them.” (Matthew, 18: 20) And therein lies the problem: gathered in the name of what? What could actually justify being gathered?

Gathered for fun

This is the worst hypothetical. In these sorts of circumstances (nightclubs, dances, parties) that are in no way visibly fun, there is but one solution: the pick-up, to hit on someone. At which point you leave party mode to enter a fierce narcissistic contest, with or without penetration as an option (it is classically deemed that a man needs penetration to obtain the desired narcissistic gratification, he then feels something akin to the bonus round sounds of old pinball machines. Women, most often, settle for the certainty that one wishes to penetrate them). If this sort of game turns your stomach, or if you feel you won’t...

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