Crome Yellow was Aldous Huxley s first book written when he was 27 The early Huxley was the best when Huxley was young, he was fluid, enthusiastic, and his potential was limitless As he grew older, he became calcified, limited, and he spent the last years of his life in California, mired by his own mystic obscurisms Crome Yellow centers around a house called Crome like Wuthering Heights centered around a house Abbey Grange Crome was a gathering place of artists The hero of the story is Denis Stone, a naive neophyte like Huxley was at the time When Huxley grew sophisticated, so did his characters This book attacks the ennui, and existential malaise of life with a righteous indignation that is refreshing He also uproariously endorses the common feeling of misanthropy that all refined cynics must feel Huxley played the expatriate game, most of his life, to draw on his own words from Crome, he was one of those distinguished people who for some reason or other, find it impossible to live in England He spent most of the 1920 s in Italy Crome Yellow is a great introduction to Huxley, as well as a great way to know him better It is difficult to believe that Huxley was so young when he wrote this He writes like a 50 yr old in this book.
Huxley I can usually take or leave, but not Antic Hay there are just too many farces to decipher for me to put it down Huxley s women are beautiful and easy his men are amoral and excrutiatingly clever.
But underlying their antics is a novel of incredible complexity Huxley makes his attentive readers squirm as we recognize our own pretensions and idiocies in his archetypal characters Ouch, ouch, ouch.
The other gift in this novel is that it has helped me appreciate and understand the work of other writers such as Waugh and Mitford i.
, in order to enjoy them, you have to suspend your own understanding of life and realize that there actually was a thriving class of people in England who didn t have jobs, relied on servants, and had no lives to speak of And were bored to tears by their sumptuous privilege, believe it or no.
For modern readers, I d say this is a pretty tough read I know a respectable amount of both French and Latin, and I had to look up at least part of most of those passages But if you re prepping for the vocabulary section of the GRE or the SATthis book will provide you with myriad words to look up and learn, including the wonderful callipygous.
Maybe I should give the rest of Huxley s work another reading As a huge fan of Brave New World, I picked up Antic Hay anticipating the same depth of social commentary I was sadly disappointed Huxley does present an occasionally mildly entertaining picture of post WW2, upper middle class life in London, much like Fitzgerald did for New York in The Great Gatsby, but the meandering, pointless lives of the characters produced a meandering, pointless novel In this regard, I was also reminded of Catcher in the Rye, another novel whose place on the dais of great literature is undeserved Altogether an unsatisfying read.
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 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 of his work, with Point Counter Point seemingly the most appropriate next book.
3 5 I m a huge fan of Huxley s novels, and I believe Antic Hay is his best Its a novel for intellectuals, being about the people in the 1920 s who actually thought The characterizations are rich and meaningful, and the disillusionment of the post WWI era is poetically portrayed within a simple, realistic plot.
Huxleys Second Novel Was Written In , The Story Takes Place In London, And Depicts The Aimless Or Self Absorbed Cultural Elites In The Turbulent Times After The End Of World War I The Book Follows The Lives Of A Set Of Unusual Characters In Bohemian, Artistic And Intellectual Circles Looking For Happiness While Everything Is Going Out Of Control In A Ridiculous And Comic Way It Reinforced Huxley S Reputation As An Iconoclast It Was Condemned For Its Immorality Because Of Its Open Debate Of Sex The Novel Was Burned In Cairo