possibility of a greater or lesser life

What I am reading now:

From Publishers Weekly

Two of France's most polarizing writers give free rein to their intellectual preoccupations, caprices--and egos--as they spar, in a fiery exchange of letters, over Judaism, morality, political commitment, postcommunist Russia, and their own celebrity. Philosopher Lévy (Barbarism with a Human Face) and novelist Houellebecq (The Elementary Particles) draw on an array of sources for their discussions, such as Celine, Comte, Spinoza, and Hugo, but repeatedly throughout the book it is the correspondents themselves who emerge as the preferred subject matter. Both discuss at length their apparent vilification at the hands of the media and this self-absorption threatens to capsize more interesting discussions about writing and the relationship between art and life. (Still their mutual ribbing delights; Houellebecq to Lévy: "A philosopher without an original idea but with excellent contacts, you are, in addition, the creator behind the most preposterous film in the history of cinema.") Nonetheless, there is an undeniable pleasure in being privy to this conversation between these two outsize personalities. (Jan.)
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Product Description

The international publishing sensation is now available in the United States—two brilliant, controversial authors confront each other and their enemies in an unforgettable exchange of letters.

In one corner, Bernard-Henri Lévy, creator of the classic
Barbarism with a Human Face, dismissed by the media as a wealthy, self-promoting, arrogant do-gooder. In the other, Michel Houellebecq, bestselling author of The Elementary Particles, widely derided as a sex-obsessed racist and misogynist. What began as a secret correspondence between bitter enemies evolved into a remarkable joint personal meditation by France’s premier literary and political live wires. An instant international bestseller, Public Enemies has now been translated into English for all lovers of superb insights, scandalous opinions, and iconoclastic ideas.

In wicked, wide-ranging, and freewheeling letters, the two self-described “whipping boys” debate whether they crave disgrace or secretly have an insane desire to please. Lévy extols heroism in the face of tyranny; Houellebecq sees himself as one who would “fight little and badly.” Lévy says “life does not ‘live’” unless he can write; Houellebecq bemoans work as leaving him in such “a state of nervous exhaustion that it takes several bottles of alcohol to get out.” There are also touching and intimate exchanges on the existence of God and about their own families.

Dazzling, delightful, and provocative,
Public Enemies is a death match between literary lions, remarkable men who find common ground, confident that, in the end (as Lévy puts it), “it is we who will come out on top.” -- from Amazon.com

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