Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Aldous Huxley

Today is the birthday of Darwin's Bulldog's grandson, who had unflattering things to say about Americans (* below)...

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English author Aldous Huxley (books by this author), born in Godalming, Surrey, in 1894. He was born into a family of intellectuals, writers, and scientists: his father was a poet and biographer; two of his brothers became respected biologists; and his grandfather, Thomas Henry Huxley, was a famous biologist and naturalist who received the nickname "Darwin's Bulldog" for his defense of the theory of evolution. On his mother's side, Huxley was related to the novelist Mary Humphry Ward, the poet Matthew Arnold, and famous educator Thomas Arnold. Even among these luminaries, Huxley was gifted, alert, and intelligent.

Huxley lost his mother to cancer when he was 14 years old. Two years later, when he was a student at Eton, he suffered an illness that left him almost completely blind. A blind man couldn't be a scientist. A blind man couldn't be a soldier, either, so Huxley stayed home while many of his peers went off to fight in World War I. Huxley had to rethink his career aspirations. He turned instead to literature, and studied at Oxford, where he met and befriended D.H. Lawrence. In 1916, Huxley published his first book — a collection of poems.

He married Maria Nys in 1919, and the couple traveled a lot during the early years of their marriage. In his book Jesting Pilate: An Intellectual Holiday (1926), Huxley wrote about the people and cultures they encountered on their travels. *He liked the vitality and energy of the Americans they met, but he thought that energy was wasted on mindless pursuits. "Nowhere, perhaps, is there so little conversation [...] It is all movement and noise, like the water gurgling out of the bath — down the waste. Yes, down the waste."
Huxley published four novels in the 1920s, including Crome Yellow (1921) and Point Counter Point (1928), as well as numerous essays, poems, plays, and six books of stories. And in 1931, he began work on a novel that he intended to be a light look at what the future might hold — a satiric response to the utopian novels of H.G. Wells. He wrote the book in four months. It was Brave New World (1932), and it ended up being a darker book than he'd planned. The book is set in London in the year 2540, a future where society functions like one of Henry Ford's assembly lines. People are genetically engineered and mass-produced in hatcheries. They're fed a steady diet of antidepressants, amusements, and sex to keep them complacent. When George Orwell's dystopia Nineteen Eighty-Four came out in 1948, people liked to compare the two and argue about which bleak future was more likely to happen. Huxley defended his vision, saying it would be easier to control people through pleasure than through fear. WA

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