cover image How I Became Stupid

How I Became Stupid

Martin Page. Penguin Books, $14 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-14-200495-1

Philosophy meets farce in a slim debut novel that follows its hero on a madcap search for an antidote to intellectualism. Antoine, a shy 25-year-old, has determined that his sharp intelligence is the cause of his emotional distress. His first two stabs at numbing his overactive mind-an attempt at alcoholism and an overearnest foray into suicide-end before they begin. Like a modern-day Goldilocks, he finds his ""just right"" solution in a prescription for Happyzac, which promises him a ""simpler, more beautiful"" life. As the pills do their work, he decorates with posters of cars and women, plays Monopoly and video games instead of chess, bulks up at the gym and eats at McDonald's. An old acquaintance hires him as a stockbroker, and he accidentally becomes stinking rich. With his newfound wealth, Antoine tries to complete his stupidity spiral by mimicking the consumption habits of his peers. But when his boss shows him that he can also acquire women with money, his drugged-up consciousness starts percolating. With help from Flaubert's letters, a visit from the ""premature ghost"" of a living pop singer and an exorcism-style intervention by his pre-stupidity friends, Antoine ends up as he predicted-back on the side of intelligence-in Page's smart, playful and critical look at human folly. (Dec.) .