Mikayla Cusac

26 February 2024

Your Life is Ultimately Meaningless

Have you ever heard the phrase that your life is ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme of things? That you are the maker of your own miserable life? Well if not, then I am very happy for you and recommend you never read the book, If by Nicholas Bourbaki. This book was interesting, you play an unnamed white man in an unknown location, though it seems to be set in America as you later visit Paris and other more famous locations. This book follows you, as the white man, throughout your life starting when you were in eighth grade with your friend's sister Iris. Depending on your choice here you discover that her brother has been grooming her in a “secret hideout”, or you are called the f slur for not following her. Both of these paths are vastly different, and when I began reading I was surprised at just how fast the book throws you into misery.

On my first read I followed her, where I promptly discovered I was a man because she gives you a blow job. However, she is also crying and shaking while doing this. Later on you learn that her brother had been grooming her, and that others in your school hate him for that reason. That you no longer speak to him. On that same path I suddenly was involved with the party girl of my highschool, where I became addicted to alcohol and weed. There were many slurs thrown out in this time, which made me realize I could not sympathize with this protagonist at all. This was a trend with each route, and I do believe you are not meant to sympathize with him.

I decided right after my christian route to explore who the writer of this book was, and he has remained a mystery. What I discovered is he is a philosophy student, which likely means this book is meant to display a message more than be a joke. This book has a myriad of problematic themes such as racism, rape culture, pedophile sympathy, violence, depression, toxic masculinity, and homophobia. There are more, as this book has twenty two endings, each more strange, twisted, and bizarre than the last. Personally I had a difficult time remembering them all, or how I even got to them. This book had me confused and concerned for most of the reading, and I believe it is the author’s intention to point out the flaws, problems, etc of each route the man takes. Such as, the mentality the main character loves to have when a woman rejects him, which is to pity himself and drink. Or the delusions of christian faith when one is absorbed into it so deeply.

Additionally, as I thought more and more about it, I realized that the author is simply taking the piss out of this type of man. In each route when your character reaches hardship, he tends to give up, abuse substances, have radical beliefs, etc. The sad part about it is I could picture someone I either know or knew who acted like this. This character is a stereotype of a cynical self-absorbed man who is determined to stay miserable and be the victim. The other characters are always more dramatic than I feel normal people would. The writing style would either be quick descriptions or it would take ages to get through what the beach looks like. It felt like this book was trying to whine and cry and tell me that men are victims too. Look how miserable their life can be! It can be so easy for them to be sad too!

Now I do not wish to undermine actual struggles of men, as this book does not represent actual struggles in that way. The man in this book is self-absorbed, he always finds it hard to look outside himself in any situation. An example of this is when Iris reacts negatively to you not following her, your character decides not to talk to any girls for a whole year. Another thing I can think of is when your character is kicked out of a friend group for trying to be a good person, he decides to fully isolate himself for TEN YEARS.

The warning I will give for this book is not trying to glorify this way of life or this type of person. It is showing a more dramatic version of an actual stereotype of men, who feel the whole world is always against them. It is showing off very real toxic beliefs and how delusional the people who fully support them can be. It feeds off of stereotyping everyone, such as Heather who has an adult boyfriend that gets her drugs. Using the name Heather for a popular girl in itself is a stereotype, she is the two-faced nice girl who uses everyone. This book is graphic, it is distasteful, and it is uncomfortable. Not in the good uncomfortable way either, in a way that A Clockwork Orange by Stanley Kubrick is uncomfortable.

So what do I truly think of this book that insists it is miserable? That forces you to always have a bad ending with little input from you? I disliked it, I understand what I believe the message to be. However, it is brash and its writing style is inconsistent in a way that makes me want to rip it apart. There are so many writing styles all in one it is like twenty people wrote this, one minute the descriptions leave little to be desired, or I’m confused on what happened. The subtextual messages are even worse, as I didn’t realize a lot of its implications, such as Denise was being raped in one route, as I should have. This book pretends it is the victim, however, I do not believe the author wanted that message. They wanted you to hate this, they wanted you to sneer at this. They wanted to show how awful someone like this is.

If I had to give it stars, I would say this book is a 3 out of 5, there are many unique endings such as a reference to the Garden of Eden, or drinking yourself dead on your parents porch. There are both many unrealistic events and realistic ones, such as Densie admitting to you later in life she was raped, and you going to the Garden of Eden. The book is delusional, and many could absolutely live without it. However I respect the amount of messages within this book, I respect the call outs to people who are like this, I respect the amount of endings. I can tell this book is not a joke, it is meant to be a wake up message. I would read it if you feel women owe you anything, if you are the type who gets rejected then acts like the world is against them. If you feel certain people of color are the scum of the world. Read this book like a mirror. Your life is ultimately meaningless.