Aldous Huxley:

Aldous Huxley's only children's book

Ann Althouse mentions looking for an Aldous Huxley quote. Below is my favorite Aldous Huxley quote:

I have been told by an eminent academic critic that I am a sad symptom of the failure of an intellectual class in time of crisis. The implication being, I suppose, that the professor and his colleagues are hilarious symptoms of success. The benefactors of humanity deserve due honor and commemoration. Let us build a Pantheon for professors. It should be located among the ruins of one of the gutted cities of Europe or Japan, and over the entrance to the ossuary I would inscribe, in letters six or seven feet high, the simple words: Sacred to the memory of the world's educators. SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS, CIRCUMSPICE.

This, from the preface to the second edition of Brave New World. Brave New World was the first genuine adult literary novel I had ever read, apart from science fiction such as Foundation; my brother brought it home when I was in the fifth grade. I must have read the novel a hundred times, and could recite lengthy passages from memory, without exactly understanding everything. Well, without understanding a lot, starting with the origin of 'Brave New World'. Or - something I wondered about for several years even after I understood the American version - "she was wonderfully pneumatic."

The preface was also the first true essay I ever read - I was deeply impressed by the voice, even without understanding the context or theme or what he was driving at. I understood that it was witty, and I understood the cadence of his wit, years before I had any understanding of the content. Another book that fell into exactly that category, one that I read a year or two later, was Camus's The Fall. I still remember phrases and sentences from it. "Modern man - he fornicated and read the newspapers, and after that, if I may say so, the subject was exhausted." It was a long time before I got the joke, but I immediately knew that it was witty. I loved the cadence of French wit before I understood what it was about.

Update: Ann Althouse was kind enough to link here, so let me add something. When I say a hundred times, no doubt I exaggerate somewhat. But possibly not that much. That's because, at least in my family of seven kids, reading was what you did non-stop, all the time. We had a lot of books for the time, I guess, lots of kids books, grownup books, but reading was what you did in any spare moment. It was what you did waiting for Mom to get out of x, y, or z while you were sitting endlessly in the car. It was the default option. And all of us tended to pick up books we had read a zillion times, flip it open to any page and re-read. It wasn't that Brave New World was my favorite book or that the books that got re-read were the great books - they were entertaining and convenient to hand and easy to jump back into.

Our reading was utterly indiscriminate and unguided. One minute, some Weekly Reader Book Club paperback - but then, one summer doing a week long campout at the beach in San Diego while my father was doing some chemistry professor conference, and it rained endlessly, my mother let my brother and me by a sci fi novel in the drugstore just to keep us busy, and it turned out to be the first volume of James Blish's Cities in Flight, They Shall Have Stars. My god. We sat in the car in the rain for days, fighting for a while over who was reading when, and then finally simply reading over each other's shoulders.

I didn't have to "get over" Huxley because I never thought he was the greatest. I just liked reading him and so I did. I never read anything else by him, wasn't drawn to him or his writing. I was completely indifferent to his drug stuff, never had the faintest interest in the rest of his work. (The only exception being the complete and utter accident of a children's book, one that is on my daughter's shelf and which she always liked a lot, written by Huxley himself, The Crows of Pearblossom. Huxley spent time in Pearblossom, which is a desert town - now one of the endless subprime suburbs of the Inland Empire of San Bernardino County, on the back side of the burning Angeles Crest, that at the time was a tiny desert hamlet on the road to the upper Mojave. Huxley wrote the story, the only one he ever wrote for children apparently, for the six year old daughter of a family friend when he lived there. I liked the story, and anyway I knew Pearblossom from my childhood, so it meant something to me. The book must be quite rare by now, unless it has been reissued by some press.)

I didn't consciously memorize whole sections; it was just something about that age in childhood, when it slipped effortlessly into the brain. It was when literature actually spoke to me, and even in not very good stories, I could hear them in my head. God, don't you miss those days? It was what made me want to write things, to be able to have a voice that I could hear for myself. The point I was trying to make was that it was less content that drove me to want to write things - and as a professor, I'm just a dried up version of a fiction writer or journalist who, ironically, has found his tenured niche while watching the economic model of his genuine writer friends collapse around them - and fundamentally wanting to have a voice.

greenish (mail):
The link begins "ttp://" instead of "http://"
9.19.2009 10:35pm
Kenneth Anderson:
whoops thanks will fix now
9.19.2009 10:37pm
The ossuary in Verdun would be ideal, filled to the brim as it is with German and French bones they couldn't tell apart, and surrounded by thousands of graves of teenagers with the epitaph, "mort pour la France." I can't exactly remember right now why WWI was fought, but some professor will no doubt remind me.

Ok, I'm far from really feeling that way about professors regularly, but that quotation put me in the mood.
9.19.2009 11:24pm
Upend, Coming:
I fell in love with Huxley's Brave New World in a similar way - changing the ages a bit. I found a copy of the book lying around at the edge of a stage. I was in 9th grade. I had books to read for my own English classes, but picked BNW up, read it, and absolutely loved it.
9.20.2009 1:41am
Upend, Coming:
My read it while young book was Fahrenheit 451 - must have been around 5th grade or so. This is totally revealing who I am, but a character has my name in that book (First and Last - thought I won't say whether it was a major, middling, or passing character)
9.20.2009 1:43am
Hmmm. Perhaps the proper Huxlian cautionary tale for our current health care set-to is After Many A Summer Dies the Swan. Quoting from the final scene in the cellar (Stumble, Memory!) -- "They look like they're having good time, don't they?"
9.20.2009 6:17am
Eli Rabett (www):
The leach's kiss
The squid's embrace
The purient ape's defiling touch
And do you like the human race

No, not much

9.20.2009 9:22am
ichthyophagous (mail):
In high school, I read all four of Huxley's disillusioned novels of the 1920's -- Crome Yellow, Antic Hay, Point Counterpoint, and Those Barren Leaves. What was irresistible was the disillusionment. Certainly I was the most advanced thinker in my graduating class. Unlike Eli, I could never have taken satisfaction in electing Obama or anyone else for President.
9.20.2009 10:20am
klw (mail):
The Devils Of Loudun, that is Huxley at his best
9.20.2009 12:01pm
Richard A. (mail):
I forget in which novel it appeared, but I recall a Huxley character referring to the God of the Old Testament as "the gaseous vertebrate."

That's quite a quote.
9.20.2009 12:12pm
I must say, I appreciate the literary posts and comments recently. They either point one in the direction of what one should read, or remind one of what one should re-read. I took the liberty of reading, for the first time, The Napoleon of Notting Hill by Chesterton following a commenters reference the other day and was glad I did.
9.20.2009 12:25pm
yankee (mail):
This, from the preface to the second edition of Brave New World. Brave New World was the first genuine adult literary novel I had ever read, apart from science fiction such as Foundation

Brave New World isn't science fiction? It's set in the far future and the premise is based on a bunch of fictional technologies.
9.20.2009 1:12pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
At a young age (not 10 but not much older), I read 'Brave New World' and was mightily impressed for about 20 minutes.

Then I went to listen to my grandma talk about the old world and I got over Huxley.
9.20.2009 3:57pm
I have read Whittaker Chambers' introduction to Witness at least a hundred times since I first read his autobiography over Christmas break of my senior year of high school.

It was one of those rare moments in life where the perfect book appears at just the right, most perfect moment. I doubt anything will have a similar effect on me again.
9.20.2009 5:26pm
ChrisTS (mail):
My favorite AH quotation is from Proper Studies:

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
9.20.2009 5:46pm
Jim E (mail):
The problem we face is that many liberals think Brave New World is an ideal rather than a dystopia. With themselves as "alphas" and the rest of us...
9.21.2009 8:02am
ChrisatOffice (mail):
Our reading was utterly indiscriminate and unguided.

The same was true of my childhood in a home full of books. Mostly, this was a blessing. On the other hand, reading Poe and looking at the terrifying engravings meant I did not sleep at night for most of one year. :-)
9.21.2009 12:39pm
Cornet of Horse:
"The book must be quite rare by now, unless it has been reissued by some press."

Well, either way it will now be burned for containing to much, um, lead, yeah! That's the ticket!

Hm, I wonder if 451 degrees is hot enough for Fire to Melt Lead?

Who cares anyway - they're just kids books, and obsolete ones at that...
9.21.2009 12:51pm
Aaron Denney (mail):

apart from science fiction

Ah, the good old science fiction ghetto -- any good science fiction, cannot, of course, be considered science fiction.
9.21.2009 7:45pm

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