Friday, April 24, 2009

May 2009 Selection: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

The book for our May meeting is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

We will meet at the Plaza Branch Library, in the small meeting room, at 7:00 p.m. on May 29, 2009.  The library is located at 4801 Main Street, Kansas City, MO.

All those who love books and learning more about them are welcome and encouraged to attend.

(Leave your own comments in panel provided on the comments page.)


Clif Hostetler said...

This review was originally posted on the top level and has been moved to the comment level after our meeting to discuss Brave New World.

The writing in Brave New World is rather ordinary, and as science fiction literature its technology is dated. Nevertheless, Brave New World remains a classic. Why? It is one of the earliest books to ask whether technology can save us; Or rather, is technology good for us. The plot provides a forced choice between insanity or lunacy. A more likely prospect is that civilization will muddle somewhere between these two extremes in the future. Still, posing the question in this way certainly gets discussion started on how we make use of technology.
Brave New World describes a world environment designed to maximize comfort and happiness at the expense of truth and beauty. The memory of history with all its instability is purposely forgotten. Science is carefully controlled to prevent change that might threaten stability. In the end everybody is happy and stability is assured. The exceptions to this happiness are the few sympathetic characters with whom modern readers can identify. What will be the fate of these few? What will be the fate of the Savage? What will be our fate? Therein lies this story's suspense.
Here are some quotations from the book to ponder:
...... ...... ...... ......

"But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."
...... ...... ...... ......
"What’s the point of truth or beauty or knowledge when anthrax bombs are popping all around you?" ...... ...... ...... ......
"Words can be like X-rays, if you use them properly--they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced." ...... ...... ...... ......
"All right then," said the savage defiantly, I'm claiming the right to be unhappy."
"Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat, the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind."
There was a long silence.
"I claim them all," said the Savage at last."

...... ...... ...... ......
"The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. "Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does." They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted."

Clif Hostetler said...

The following is a link to my review of the lectures "Visions of Utopia: Philosophy and the Perfect Society" by Fred E. Baumann.
It contains comments that relate to Brave New World.

Clif Hostetler said...

GREAT BOOKS is more than an name for our book group!
(Propaganda Alert - The following is a bit boastful)
We actually review, read and discuss books that have earned their greatness by not being forgotten with the passage of time. In many cases they are books that were assigned reading when you were in school, but you didn't get around to reading them. With the Great Books group you can now make peace with you conscience and finally read your assignment.

So join us on May 29 for our next meeting to discuss Brave New World by Aldus Huxley.

In order to see just how great Brave New World is, I checked the list of the 100 best books of the 20th Century that was prepared by the Board of the Modern Library, a division of Random House, published July 1998.
They ranked Brave New World at No. 5.
They also had a Reader's List where Brave New World ranked No. 18.

Clif Hostetler said...

At first I thought there were no examples of true happiness in Brave New World (BNW). Upon reflection I think that perhaps Helmholtz Watson provides a role model for happiness. Happiness, in the context of society at large in BNW, refers to the immediate gratification of every citizen's desire for food, sex, drugs, nice clothes, and other consumer items. That doesn't come across as being very appealing. The alternative of the Savage's attempt at self purification by self flagellation doesn't offer much appeal either. Bernard Marx is insecure, petty and cruel, and he certainly doesn't provide a desirable alternative. On the other hand, Helmholtz Watson asks to be sent to an island where the weather is unpleasant because it will provide a stimulating environment. I believe Helmholtz ended up being happy on the Falkland Islands.