Whatever happens, I can tell you that this "Review the top 100" project was a worthwhile thing to do. And the reason I know this to be the case, so early along, is that it got me to read Brave New World. After the first fifty pages, I realized that I was reading the work of a genius. Forget the ideas for a moment; Brave New World was an extremely well-written book. Without being overly flowery, the prose really kept me interested and involved. Every paragraph could be taken out and shown to kids as examples of good writing. Even a description of an elementary reading textbook made me feel queasy and disturbed: Linda is teaching her son to read and she draws a kitty on a rug, and a baby in a bottle. She writes: "The cat is on the mat. The tot is in the pot."
Ah, hell, lets talk about the ideas. While reading this book, I was thinking, "Oh. I thought this book was written in the 30s. I must have been wrong. Huxley is talking about the issues involved in 'test-tube babies' for example, and that wasn't even thought about until the 60s, right? And he talked about how all "acceptable" sports involved massive outlays for equipment, and how the highest 'good' was consumerism. I thought that was an issue that came up in the 70s." But no, this book was written in 1932. How did Huxley know? Yeah, we haven't abolished natural birth, but his ideas about sports were pretty much right on. I know this is probably a very cliché thing to say about Brave New World, but jeez, it seems like we are moving in that direction, aren't we? We aren't worshipping Henry Ford overtly yet, making the sign of the T, but every few years he seems to get more and more lionized.
I was surprised by the way that Huxley set Bernard up to be the Heroic Protagonist in the first half of Brave New World, and then, after we started identifying with him, proceeded to show him to be shallow and cowardly. There were no real "heroes" in this book, but we were led to believe that the closest we would come would be Bernard. And, in the end, the boldest thing he did was to admit and regret his cowardice. Yes, he did bring The Savage and Linda back to civilization, but he primarily did it to get himself out of being transferred to Iceland.
I found myself the most disturbed when I found myself agreeing with the society presented in the book. Huxley lumps "sex before marriage" in with all the other evils of this brave, new world. I, a believer in pre-marital sex found it jarring to see my personal beliefs in agreement with the "common wisdom" of that day. And Huxley isn't shy about judging. I found myself wondering, "Is it true? Am I operating to some extent with the morality and ethics of an infant?" But my discomfort allowed me to change the way I read the book. I found myself more likely to play the devil's advocate with Huxley. Is this world so bad? I would say yes, that giving people contentment and happiness by removing their freedom is a Bad thing. But I've been conditioned to say that by my society. No, nobody hypnotized me when I was young, but every comic book and television show I saw emphasized the maxim that Freedom Is The Greatest Good. Am I just a robot looking down on a story about different types of robots? Do I make as much sense as the Betas looking down on the Gammas?
I drink coffee to keep me alert and awake, as I want to be. I shovel down food like chocolate cake and beef because it pleases me to do so, even though it destroys my body. Even though I watch far less television than most people, I still spend my share of hours staring at it, not having a particularly good time, but not having a particularly bad time. Given that I am a self-medicator, who am I to criticize a world where people do the same things I do, only they've found a drug, Soma, that does its job better than the ones I've described above?
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