Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
I read this as a teen, but remembered little enough of it that it was almost new to me this time around. New, and yet familiar, so many of Huxley's themes and ideas have been repeated and reused by later writers, both of page and film. So what is left to be said about a book considered to be a modern classic?
Mostly, it deserves the title. It is worth reading and discussing, which is what I'll be doing on Thursday, when my book club meets. I've even prepared discussion questions to keep us on topic.
Huxley, writing in 1931, may not have accurately predicted the science (still living life without our personal helicopters), but much of his New World reminds us of our own. The idolization of happiness and the means used to attain it which fall so short that no one is truly happy; the awareness that one is accepting societal norms that do not satisfy, combined with an inability to totally reject them; numbing ourselves to pains neither we nor society can cure - these we see all around us, everyday.
This discourse, between Mustapha and John will, I hope, stay with me:
J: "If you allowed yourselves to think of God, you wouldn't allow yourselves to be degraded by pleasant vices. You'd have a reason for bearing things patiently, for doing things with courage"....
M: ...."There isn't any need for a civilized man to bear anything that's seriously unpleasant"....
J: "But God's the reason for everything noble and fine and heroic. If you had a God..."
M: "My dear young friend, civilization has absolutely no need of nobility or heroism." .....
"Christianity without tears, that's what soma is."
J: "But the tears are necessary."
M: "We prefer to do things comfortably."
J: "I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin."
M: "In fact...you are claiming the right to be unhappy."
J: "All right then, I'm claiming the right to be unhappy."
I claim it, too, because the tears really are necessary.