I still feel quite underserved by my British Modernism professor in college who had us read some truly great novels (and by great I mean important, iconic and mostly rewarding in terms of scope and challenge) Women in Love, A Passage to India, The Good Soldier, but then made us read Brave New World.
And I like Brave New World, but it’s parodic and satirical and it is rewarding kind of, but it’s a book I read in high school and didn’t really help me grow as a reader in college.
Also, it made me think that Aldous Huxley only wrote books like that. But no! He mostly wrote books like this!
This book is about a young, headstrong, utterly ridiculous, and mediocre writer who goes off to the country and stays at a kind of artists’ retreat called Crome. There he finds that he is among peers, truly for the first time ever in his life, and we understand through the lens of irony and being smarter, that he is among peers, and they’re all terrible.
What follows is a funny, satirical romp through the British writing community circa 1920. Who all is here? I’m not entirely sure what analogues Huxley is creating, but I sense some John Galsworthy, W Somerset Maugham, Huxley himself, and maybe someone like Arnold Bennett or Samuel Butler.
This book is dripping with irony and it starts off with our protagonist Denis lambasting himself for wasting a two hour train ride during which he could have written the perfect poem or read a transcendental book, but instead merely rode the train. Later there’s a moment when a writer named “Barbecue-Smith” laments how inefficient Denis is because he can only write about 400 words an hour, whereas he can write a much more impressive 1200.