I found myself without a book to read during my morning commute a few weeks ago so I turned to the ol' bookshelf. I have dozens of reference books and books of unknown poets that are untouched, along with a few "gems" I was supposed to have read in high school or college, but never did. If I decide to give out meaningless and random awards to the books I read this summer, my 1989 paperback copy of Brave New World will win the ugliest cover award. The award for most likely to be judged by cover. (what you see here is far more interesting than mine.)
Brave New World is a classic from the past. It's one of those books that I enjoyed more than I expected to. Huxley was around my age when he wrote this novel, and his writing technique is sometimes slightly labored over. Enough so that I can pick out the tools he uses to get the reader into his world of bottled up fetuses and "everyone belongs to everyone else".
Written in the late 1920s, early '30s, the book is loaded with some impressive foresight on subjects like language, war, and machinery. Unlike contemporary writers of his time, Huxley doesn't beat around the bush when talking about sexual relationships or egos. He isn't overly descriptive. His character sketch of a complete, yet honorable, man centers around three male character parts: Bernard Marx - the overcompensating smart man who has a good heart but a bad temper because he is short, Helmholtz Watson - the star quarterback who goes to Harvard type, good at everything he does but unsatisfied with the easy life because it comes so easily, and John, "Mr. Savage".
John is the star of the second half of the book, his was born from an actual woman as opposed to all other "good civilized" people. Those people are made from sperm and egg, grown in bottles, kept on conveyor belts until they're 18 months and raised in child conditioning factories (schools) until they can go out in the world and join the ranks they're born into.
The only turn of plot that kept my attention held was the fate of Mr. Savage. I knew going into this book that a character would be making a choice between civilized comfort and unconditioned suffering (free will). Lucky for me, the writing was succinct enough to keep hold over me. If Huxley had written like others of his time I wouldn't have finished the book.
John "the savage", comes from a reservation in the American southwest, where he has been an outcast all his life for being white, to the bustling city of London where is a freakshow. He winds up being a Shakespeare quoting masochist who chooses to whip himself rather than 'have' his love (1 of 2 small female 'roles') Lenina. Lenina is pneumatic - a word that is used all too often in this book, to mean pretty much "everything nice". Not only does he whip himself for wanting physically but is used to make the point that suffering is the human condition and a condition worth fighting for.
No wonder The Canon loved this book. It ties up very neatly into the privileged White's order of honor and ethics wherein it's ok to scorn your mother for drinking and fucking and it's better to suffer nobly than to have sex with all the easy lays in the world.
This book was like a boring date. It wasn't all bad, we had a few decent moments together, but now it's over and I want to think about my grocery list with a bubble bath and glass of wine.