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Robert E. Dennis
1.0 out of 5 starsThis edition of this book is trash.
Reviewed in the United States on May 7, 2019
No pagination at all. The text appears as if randomly dropped onto the pages, with some pages appearing quite normal, while others have only a short paragraph in the middle or bottom or top of the page. Some of the pages suddenly become double-spaced mysteriously. There is no publisher or copyright information, so I assume some sneaky business has simply pirated the copy via direct retyping or via photocopying from another edition, or even simply cut and pasted text into a new format. I would have returned the book, but was sick and my deadline of May 2nd passed by before I could do it. This is a blot on Amazon and I will be much more careful about what I purchase from them in future. In any case avoid this particular book offering like the plague. It is junk.
4.0 out of 5 stars20-something failures to launch from the early 1920's
Reviewed in the United States on August 2, 2019
This is not one of Huxley's greatest works, but is interesting. It is set just after WWI and features a group of failed artists, 20-somethings still living with their parents, professional semi-failures and the women they are sleeping with (or trying to) drifting around a London which is in economic recession (what Keynes called "the economic consequences of Winston Churchill"). A good reminder that failure to launch is not a unique 21st century phenomenon.
4.0 out of 5 starsAn enjoyable look at post-WWI life in London
Reviewed in the United States on August 31, 2019
A 4-Star interwar period novel, sometimes humorous but often sad, as the characters try to find their way in the big city: loving, schmoozing, chasing dreams, and recognizing failures. A fine, likable book about a turbulent period.
A really in depth and well written account of how life was in the 1920s. I could imagine myself chatting with them while getting tea, coffee, or drinking at the pubs. In about 100 years many things have changed but some things never will. Read if you like to learn about the 1920s. Otherwise don't do it.
I like all of Aldous Huxley's novels. There is something about his writing style that pulls one into a zone of enhanced perceptions. Hidden messages come to light and a nice story is told. Antic Hay is no different, and i found it to be quite enjoyable.
Reviewed in the United States on November 13, 2011
The post-World War I blahs manifest themselves in a group of young Londoners in 1922. Most are gainfully unemployed, drinking, dancing, and dining with the help of allowances, alimony, or inheritances. Some manage on borrowed lucre. "The Scientist" of the group does kidney research--measuring his sweat output as he bicycles all the way to France (figuratively anyway). Almost all strive to be fashionable, poetic, witty, or artistic. Some also strive to be somebody else----maybe the Complete Man as opposed to being mild-mannered and melancholy. But can you achieve this dream with a fake beard and a padded overcoat ? Check it out ! Being somebody else's lover is de rigueur. Professors and Latin scholars interact with fakes, pretenders, and con-men; it's a small section of London society at that time. The main hero plans to get rich by pushing pneumatic pants on the unsuspecting British consumer! In a different mode than other novels of his that I've read, Huxley paints a witty, humorous portrait of the times, laced with plenty of sharp insights on human nature. As one of the characters observes, "The real charm about debauchery is its total pointlessness, futility, and above all its incredible tediousness." In a book very much given to a debauched class, the author has to be clever indeed to avoid that tediousness. Huxley succeeds brilliantly. You might need more familiarity with the British slang of that era than I have, and a passing knowledge of French, Latin, and Italian will come in handy. What you most need is a love for that dry British humor and their penchant for "sending up" everybody. But Huxley being Huxley, there are those real questions and observations, often hidden under the stones of irony. "There was nothing new to be thought or asked. And there was still no answer." Yes, true as always, but we keep on asking anyhow. If you like clever repartée and witticisms that catch you by surprise, you'll love this book, not much talked about in our day.
3.0 out of 5 starsQuick, easy and sporadically entertaining
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 28, 2016
My Vintage Classics edition of Antic Hay describes it as “wickedly funny” and perhaps, to those reading it around 1923, when it was first published, this social satire seemed the height of hilarity. Then again, perhaps not...
The plot, such as it is, is merely a device for Aldous Huxley to convey different viewpoints. The lack of any real story is, for a work of fiction, a serious limitation, and one I struggled with. Additionally, a classical education, and some familiarity with French and Latin, is advantageous when reading this book. As a reader lacking these skills I had to regularly pause to make online searches to clarify various references that would otherwise have gone over my head.
So, with no story, what are we left with? A clever, well written social satire very much of its time. The characters only exist to represent various archetypes (an artist, a poet, a promiscuous flapper, an innocent etc.) whose primary role is to exchange clever dialogue.
Throughout the novel Gumbril, the central character, struggles to reconcile the two sides of his personality: 'the Mild and Melancholy one', who exalts in nature, apprehends divinity in Mozart’s G minor Quintet, and believes in romantic love; versus 'the Complete Man', who subscribes to the death of God, scoffs at romantic ideals, and pursues dangerous liaisons. In post-WW1 London, Huxley only identifies one winner in that particular conflict.
It is a quick, easy read, and whilst I really enjoyed a few scenes, overall it was too incoherent, only sporadically entertaining, and sometimes downright annoying. I never got any clear sense of what Aldous Huxley wanted to say with this book. Perhaps he just wanted to hold up a mirror to the widespread disenchantment, post-WW1, that was all pervasive in the early 1920s? The book does capture effectively that widespread disillusionment, with London portrayed as a city devoid of any real values or meaning.
After I’d finished the book, I read an article called “Aldous Huxley’s Antic Hay: London in the Aftermath of World War I” by Jake Poller, which summarises the key plot points and explains what is going on. This is a helpful shortcut to understanding the book, and much faster than reading the book.
As Charles Bukowski reminds us, “An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.” In Antic Hay, Huxley was more intellectual than artist.
That said, having read a short summary of Aldous Huxley’s career in the introduction of this book, I am still keen to read more of his work, with “Point Counter Point” seemingly the most appropriate next book.
First published in 1923 this story opens in 1922. Theodore Gumbril, junior, a teacher, whilst ruminating at a school church attendance decides to quit his job and promote his new idea, pneumatic trousers. Sitting on the pews Gumbril finding them too uncomfortable comes up with the idea of inflatable pouches in the seat of his trousers, such would alleviate the numbness and be more comfortable.
As a comic opening for a novel it is a good one, but the main plot of this story wanders off course many times. Gumbril returns to London and meets up with his father, an old architect who has rooms in his home full of architectural models and bemoans the ugliness of London, and former acquaintances. As the story flips between his bohemian friends we do get long passages of their philosophical thoughts on numerous subjects, but ultimately these people are really poseurs who think they are in artistic or literary circles above others.
Although there is comedy here, what with Gumbril’s invention, and how he transforms himself into a more forward and extrovert man when he adorns a false beard, there is a lot of darkness both in the portraits of the characters which are sharp and cutting, and a lot of pessimism also appears in this book. Although there are only a few mentions of the First World War you soon realise what an effect it has had on the characters herein. There is a lot of sniping and cruelty in words about others, but also there are a lot of suicidal thoughts in most of the characters. They realise that the world has changed after such a monumental and tragic event as the war but they don’t really know how to continue and be really happy again.
This has perhaps dated to a certain extent, both in style and in prose. Huxley’s vocabulary here rivals James Joyce’s but this book does annoy at times as it flips from comedy to deep pessimism. For a lot of readers I think that this may be something that they will wish to miss. It isn’t hard to understand, but it does jar, and also the characters do go off at times into French, Italian, and Latin, and unfortunately if you don’t know what they are saying there are no footnotes to offer translations for you.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 14, 2013
I first read this about 30years ago and am currently re-reading all his novels. This, his second, is perhaps a little more serious than Crome Yellow and the satire has more of an edge to it, exposing the shallowness, pretension, and absurdity of his characters lives. Gumbril is treated the most kindly. As always it is thought provoking and puts one into a contemplative and reflective state of mind. My only gripe is the need for a dictionary and the frequent French, Latin and Italian quotes. Not for fans of the X-Factor and Strictly Come Dancing.