Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Antic Hay by Aldous Huxley

"Gumbel talked. He talked of the marriage ceremonies of octopuses, of the rites intricately consummated in the submarine green grottos of the Indian Ocean. Given a total of sixteen arms, how many permutations and combinations of caresses?"

When sifting through the many and varied tomes on the 1001 novels list, the synopsis of this Aldous Huxley novel sounded suitably mad cap and intriguing. Just the kind of thing that would appeal to me, pneumatic trousers no less. I'd like to say that promise was realised, and yet that was not to be the case. Despite the blurb pointing to boundless hilarity I was lucky to raise a wry smile, well if I'm honest probably my face moved to some kind of mild smile around four times at its content.

Admittedly, life has been distracting me from my reading. Adventures far more delightful than the content of this novel and a much needed respite from the past two years cursed by a Voldemort-like figure of misery, have impeded my reading progress somewhat. Nevertheless I persevered, albeit at a snail's pace. Possibly a snail with a limp.

On Monday, I was sitting on a plane to the nation's capital- a rather quick flight - and finally the end seemed nigh. I began to fly through this novel and even raise the odd smirk. A rather delightful passenger sat next to me (he was reading a far better book) and commented on his disbelief that I was actually reading at the speed the pages were turning. Indeed I was flying though the text, desperately seeking some kind of humorous interlude that I really never found. The novel has this rather condescending tone and yet, at the same time, makes fun of the intelligentsia. It made me wonder, to whom it would appeal. It screams " look at me I'm clever and speak Latin and French" and despite the fact I could understand those quotes, I felt a very real sense of disconnect. Possibly the only times I felt entertained was when the topic turned to sex - or possibly that's just where my head's at currently. Perhaps that also extends to the fact that the facts of life don't change, whereas economic and social circumstances do and contribute to our appreciation of satire.

When everything is going well and your heart is light, perhaps the cynicism of this novel isn't the best reading selection. I wonder if I read it last year, whether I would rate it more highly? Probably.

 3 out of 5 - I'm just not in the mood for this old hay.

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