Friday, May 25, 2012

Okay, this is the first Post to THIS blog

...that isn't a Book Report.  I'm testing the Phishers...they have control of my other blog...It is 1:20 am Friday, May 25.
If the Phishers are in charge, their lair is in another time zone, and it shows up as a different time.

I feel that something is wrong....elements on this page are moving around.

I believe they are heeeere...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Brave New World

by Aldous Huxley

copyright 1932

Assigned: 1960’s
Read for the first time: November, 2009
Original book report grade: C, I think

Facing the inside cover of my 1968 Bantam paperback copy of Aldous Leonard Huxley’s Brave New World is a short, extremely incomplete biography (it excludes his prodigious experimentation in the US counterculture of the ‘60’s with mind-altering drugs, spiritualism, mysticism, parapsychology, and various methods of meditation).

This short biography declares that he was “unquestionably the most brilliant social satirist of his time” (26 July 1894-November 22,1963).
It doesn’t say in my copy who wrote this bio, but I’d be willing to bet that Eric Blair, aka George Orwell, who was briefly a student of Huxley’s at Eton (their common Alma Mater), might disagree.

I don’t know if Huxley was indeed the most brilliant social satirist of his time because I have not read all the social satire of Huxley’s time, and do not intend to do so.

After the copyright page is a 10-line paragraph entirely in French by Nicholas Berdiaeff. So now I’m thinking that Huxley is just showing off and do not appreciate the implicit hostility towards those of us who do not read French.

Following that is a ten-page foreword written by Huxley himself, in which he expresses (for this printing) the futility of chronic remorse felt by artists—then goes on to obsesses over the stuff he thinks he got wrong in Brave New World, and, further, explains why he did not attempt to change or correct it.

He feared (I’m freely paraphrasing his words here) that by getting rid of his mistakes, he’d remove too much good stuff.

Being something of an artist myself, I think I know the real reason he didn’t want to go back and fiddle with it—he’d already written it one time, and he really didn’t want to face it again.

But maybe that’s just me.

When he wrote the book, he reveals, he was “amused” by the notion that humans have “free will” to choose between insanity and lunacy.
“Today,” he says, “I feel no wish to demonstrate that sanity is impossible.”

He goes on to complain about an eminent academic critic who told him (to his face, apparently) that he (Huxley) was
“a sad symptom of the failure of an intellectual class in time of crisis.”

Huxley reacts with a bit of sarcasm towards this critic and his ilk, then goes on to enumerate his own mistakes in BNW, chiefly his failure to predict the destructive power of atomic weapons.

(Think how bad he’d feel today, not having predicted the Internet or multi-channel cable TV.)

According to Wikipedia, In October, 1949, Huxley wrote to George Orwell, congratulating him on his book, 1984:
"Within the next generation I believe that the world's leaders will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging them and kicking them into obedience."
Which indicates to me that he was still stuck in BNW mode.

I think the whole point of this ten-page regret is that he came to believe that the choice for humans is not between insanity and lunacy—but between “Supra-national Totalitarianism” and the “Welfare Tyranny of a Utopia,”

Whatever the hell that means.

To read this book is to gain an insight into the strict stratification of English Society of his time, and of which he was naturally a part.

There were, for instance, the Aristocracy, who did not work for a living; the Landed Gentry, who, though perhaps not Royal or even titled, lived on inherited money & land--and mainly went around riding horses and shooting things; there were professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, or university professors; there were other social strata, too—but, surprisingly, the serving class was not the lowest. Laborers fell below those who served ladies and gentlemen; and so on.

The point is, you can see this stratification of society that Huxley no doubt took for granted, and the whole training of embryos from decantation to accept—even love--their station in life kind of makes a weird sense.

Hiuxley’s death on November 22, 1963 and that of the writer C. S. Lewis on the same day went largely unnoticed because the assassination of President Kennedy also took place that day.

One interesting aspect of Huxley’s death was his request to his wife, as he lay dying, for 100 micrograms of LSD, which he received.
I’m sure there must be lots more very interesting stuff about Huxley, but this is a book report, not a biography.

So here I am writing a report on a book assigned to me in the ‘60’s—a book whose author by then had already confessed that he believed it to be seriously flawed.

Brave New World

This is not a warm and fuzzy book. The world in about 745 A.F. (After Ford—as in Henry, Hitler’s BFF & originator of the assembly line?) is one of cheerful regimentation that rather reminds one of an ant farm.

Human beings are produced by assembly line in the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre and other Hatcheries like it throughout the world, from fertilization to, apparently, young adulthood.

Huxley gives us a future that embraces Eugenics to the extent that humans would be manufactured purposely for every class of society, from the “Alpha Pluses” (the intellectual class) down through the Betas, Gammas, Deltas (working-class), and Epsilons (don’t ask).
I considered this to be quite 20th century-British of him--very “Upstairs, Downstairs…”

After the chemically treated Alpha-plus to Epsilon-minus fetuses are “decanted” (get it? No one is actually born with an emotional attachment to other humans), their conditioning begins. They are kept with others of their own social class, and subjected to unceasing indoctrination. Even during sleep, they are conditioned to accept—even prefer—their lot in life. They learn to be happy little Betas, Gammas, or Deltas. Each societal class wears a different color jumpsuit, and they are even taught to love even that color and to prefer it over the others.

Alarming Pavlovian techniques are used for the conditioning of Toddlers; if they try to approach a flower or a book, they get painful electrical shocks.

The word “mother” is an obscenity; “father” is merely scatological, and the word “parent” is not to be used in polite conversation.

Sex games for children and sexual promiscuity for adults is encouraged. Failure to participate is suspect. So is emotional attachment to any person.

Young women proudly wear what seem to be bandoliers filled with contraceptives.

Soma, a drug that tranquilizes and invigorates people at the same time, is everywhere; people talk of “soma vacations.” Alphas and Betas recieve an endless supply, but Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons have to work for theirs.

“History is Bunk,” the Henry Ford quote, is recited prayerfully. History in every form revealed, has been eliminated from society. No books, art, music, films or other revelations of the Past survive in this World.

This reveals the title of the book to be ironic, because it is a quote from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” uttered by “the Savage” (more about him later) when he catches sight of Lenina; “O, Brave New World, that has such people in’t!”

The main characters are the D.H.C. (Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning); Bernard Marx, a curiously small, disgruntled Alpha Plus who works at the Hatchery; Lenina, a “pneumatic” young Alpha woman who is quite popular with the guys; Mustafa Mond, the Alpha Plus Controller, who is the Big Boss; Helmholtz Watson, a fabulously handsome and manly specimen of an Alpha Plus--lecturer at the College of Emotional Engineering (Department of Writing) and Bernard’s friend; the Savage; and Linda, the Savage’s mother.

Hedonistic community gatherings are compulsory and regular attendance at such gatherings is strongly encouraged.

After one such meeting, Bernard experiences a mixture of self-loathing (Bernard is a real self-loather) and a desire to do something about his attraction to Lenina, on whom he appears to have a crush.

Let me say here that although the women in BNW are required to be promiscuous, there are many curious instances in the book where men reject them for their easy availability.

I’m just saying…

Oh. Another thing about Bernard--rumor is that a mistake was made while he was still in the Bottle; a Hatchery worker mistook him for a Gamma and put too much alcohol in his blood-surrogate.

Bernard invites Lenina to visit a New Mexico, USA, Savage Reservation with him. Lenina has always wanted to see a Savage Reservation, so she eagerly accepts.

Bernard is just a party-pooper. He refuses to take any soma, or to make love to Lenina. He leaves their bed one night and wanders into the Savage encampment, where people who largely resemble Native Americans are offered up as tourist attractions.

It’s against the rules to actually interact with them.
He meets Linda, a woman from his world, who had disappeared on a trip here and was presumed dead. Not dead, but very fat, Linda is the antithesis of the Brave New World. No one in the Brave New World ever gets fat or looks old, no matter how long they live.

Worse, Linda has given birth. Her son, “The Savage,” loves his mother, which horrifies Bernard. But the Savage is a wise and learned man, as well as being handsome and charismatic.

Okay, I’m getting bored, so--long story short, the Savage goes back to Brave New World with his mom, is repulsed by their ways, which causes the Establishment to regard him as a menace—(that, and the fact that he quotes Shakespeare, which indicates that he has read a book.)

Even more suspiciously, he repels the advances of pneumatic young beauties who whose clothing is conveniently constructed to be removed in an instant, like a stripper’s.

Linda is dying, The Savage goes to the hospital to visit her, and this causes all sorts of consternation.

Finally, he holes up in a tower armed with a bow and arrow, and shoots at advancing helicopters as they close in on him.

That’s all I remember, because I read it months ago.
Sorry, no Aretha Hats for this book. Orwell had already written the first Dystopia. And Orwell’s “1984” was more forward-thinking.

It gets a noose for being pretentious and gloomy

Monday, October 26, 2009

Today's title: "1984" by George Orwell

Monday, October 26, 2009

1984 by George Orwell
copyright 1949

Assigned: 1960's. (my classmates say we were supposed to read it in high school, but I cannot believe that. It has sex in it, with people getting naked. Admittedly, they don't seem to have that much fun, but still...)

Read for the first time: last week (2009);
Original book report grade: C

Above: The author, Eric Blair, AKA George Orwell, was born in India and died at the age of 49 of a neglected lung disease. He wrote other stuff besides 1984; Animal Farm is probably one of his better known works. It is the only other thing I have read by him. He was, according to Wikepedia, interested (if not obsessed, if you ask me), with political ideology. The main impression I got from 1984 is that he thought the political ideologies were all pretty much hopeless. I think he may have been a Socialist but NOT a Communist.

I hate it when you have to read a load of stuff about the author and then read about his work before you start the book, but I have to report a smidge of what Erich Fromm, the renowned social psychologist (who had some pretty weird ideas of his own), said about 1984. It helps to know some of this stuff.
Fromm was a German scientist who was super smart and studied at prestigious places, and taught and wrote and is really respected for all that as well as his clinical practice in psychoanalysis.
Fromm (right), says that 1984 was one of three "negative Utopias" written after World Wars I and II. Sometimes negative Utopias are called "Dystopias," but that doesn't matter. One of the others is Brave New World, which I have to read next. Negative Utopias are supposed to serve as warnings of what the world will become if we don't stop it right now.


Okay, It's 1984 and there are three superpowers on Earth: Oceana, Eastasia, and Eurasia. They are all at war with one another--two of them usually ganging up on the other, and the enemies keep changing, according to The Party, which controls everything, and reports everything to the population of Oceana, which consists of folks in the Inner Party, (privileged), the Outer Party (not so privileged), and the Proletariat, or, as they are affectionately known, the "Proles."
The main character is an unattractive, cockroachy little man named Winston Smith, who has a terrible cough (maybe Orwell identified with him?) and a varicose ulcer above his ankle which itches and weeps and won't heal. Nice.

The head of The Party is "Big Brother," who is hard to miss (and who, judging from the description, appears to look a lot like Saddam Hussein), because posters bearing his picture and the slogan, "Big Brother is Watching You" decorate the sides of buildings and the walls inside buildings, and just about every surface poor old Winston lays his watery eyes on.

Winston is a member of the Outer Party, and works in The Ministry of Truth. This is funny because the other Ministries are the Ministry of Plenty, the Ministry of Peace, and The Ministry of Love. These Ministries are the tallest buildings in a bombed-out London.
Did I mention the story takes place in London?

And of course, the names of the ministries mean exactly the opposite of their actual activity. The Ministry of Plenty produces nothing--or very little--in the way of consumer goods for the population of Oceana because most of its resources go to build weapons to fight the interminable war.

The Ministry of Peace wages war.

The Ministry of Love is where dissenters and prisoners of war are tortured and killed after they have confessed publicly to every sort of offense imaginable--including stuff they just made up to confess to.

Three slogans adorn the Ministry of Truth:

This makes sense in "Doublethink," an exercise of the mind which makes it possible to hold--and believe--competing ideas simultaneously.

Winston's job in the Ministry of Truth is to adjust the news, changing the messages of newspapers and magazines, to reflect whatever happens to be the "truth" at the moment. For instance, any person who was unlucky enough to have disappeared into the Ministry of Love has to be eradicated from the records. Every indication that the person had ever lived is removed, and the stories creatively rewritten by Winston, who is pretty proud of his work. The newspapers and magazines bearing the unfortunate person's name are then shoved down a "memory hole" next to Winston's desk, where they are vaporized.

There's a LOT of work for Winston to do. Sometimes Big Brother would declare that the Enemy was Eastasia, and the next day, Oceana would be allied with Eastasia against Eurasia. The allies and enemies keeep changing so Big Brother's words have to be adjusted constantly.

"Telescreens" which seem to work as one-way wall-sized video monitors are ubiquitous. They infest homes, workplaces, the sides of buildings, and even small hidey-holes in rooms where you think you are safe.

In Winston's dreary apartment, there is a recess in the wall next to the screen, and anyone sitting at a small desk there is safe from the constant monitoring. But by the time we learn this, we are so paranoid that we know Winston is doomed. (Who isn't in this book?)

It is considered suspect to hide from the screen. On top of that, Winston has been into the Prole section of town, where you can still buy old stuff, and has bought--a diary!! And a pen and ink!
He is getting ready to write his thoughts onto a piece of paper!

He's thinking about the Proles, who are so oppressed they don't know how oppressed they are. They are so insignificant that telescreens do not monitor them. They live and love and reproduce and hang out their laundry. Of course, every few days or so, a bomb falls into their neighborhoods and takes out a few hundred of them, but they blame it on whomever Big Brother has designated to be the latest Enemy.

"If there is any hope," writes Winston in his new/old diary, "It lies in the Proles."

(At this point, I am telling anyone who will listen that the only way this poor sap's life could get any worse is if he somehow got an actual ray of hope--and had it taken away.)

Why doesn't he just call up Big Brother, and recite a banned poem? You know he's cutting his own throat, but, hey--it's his throat, right?


He's caught the eye of a girl at work, who inexpiclably takes a shine to him and slips a note to him and they start meeting and having sex. In my opinion, their main attration to one another is their mutual fear and hatred of the Party and Big Brother. They decide they're in love. Her name is Julia.

Someone else at work has caught Winston's eye. A big guy named O'Brien, who is a member of the Inner Party. Winston fantasizes that O'Brien is an ally against Big Brother.

There have been rumors of an underground resistance to the rule of The Party, led by a man named Goldstein who has written a manifesto called, simply, "The Book."

Cutting to the chase, Julia and Winston wind up at O'Brien's apartment, where O'Brien tells them that he is indeed a member of the underground movement, and he then "inducts" them into the Underground through a series of questions, including:

"Are you prepared to give your lives?"
"Are you prepared to commit murder?"
"Are you prepared...[to kill] hundreds of people?"
"Are you prepared... to throw...acid into the face of a child?"
"Are you prepared, the two of you, to separate and never see each other again?"

This idealistic couple answers "Yes," unhesitatingly to all the questions--except the last.

I gotta say, at this point, I realized there were no good guys in this book. Winston and Julia weren't any better than the oppressive Party they are trying to escape.
Usually when I get to the point where I don't like anyone in a book, I just stop reading it. But I'm committed to this book report thing.

Winston receives The Book by Goldstein from O'Brien and begins reading it aloud to Julia in a room they have used as a retreat--in the Prole section, with no telescreen.
The Book turns out to be a screed denouncing, it seems, every form of social organization or governmental rule, advocating for nothing that I could tell. It goes on for PAGES.

Well, what do you know--right in the middle of all this, here come the hobnail boots, the secret telescreen reveals itself, and darn if old Wintson and Julia aren't surprised at being betrayed.

Off they go to the Ministry of Love. We only follow Winston's experience there.
Torture, torture, torture, starvation, beatings, torture, humiliation, torture, degradation, get the picture.

Then--I guess this is supposed to be a big surprise--O'Brien shows up to participate in the torture. Old Winston has already confessed to every crime he could think of, and made up a few to confess to. O'Brien reveals that he is "Goldstein," that he wrote "The Book," and that, by the way, the only objective of The Party or any of its members is Power.

There's a lot of stuff about subjects of The Party being made to think and even believe that two plus two is five. I guess the meaning being that if you can get someone to believe what he knows is not true, you then have complete Power over that person.

Well, Winston has apparently been put through all this hell just to break him to the point that he will betray Julia. They confront him with his greatest fear--rats eating his face--approaching him with a wire cage of rats, fitted with a place for his face to fit. He breaks and screams, "Do it to her--do it to Julia--not me!"

Then they clean him up, feed him and let him go to await the unknown moment when a bullet will crash into the back of the skull in the distant or not so distant future.

This is SUCH a paranoid nightmare that it is really silly. Who cares about a nobody like Winston who will never be anything but a nobody and whether or not he admits that two and two equal five, or even whether or not he believes it?

He and Julia run into one another briefly, and with much disinterest and discomfort, confess that each betrayed the other. They are changed, their bodies thickened, hardened, their minds weaker. They part emotionlessly.

But how does this give The Party any Power? Winston's conversion is a private one in the end. Even when he realizes, tears dripping into his gin, that he loves Big Brother.

What difference does it make to anybody but Winston?

I personally like the movie "Enemy of the State," starring Will Smith, in which the innocent pursued person is being pursued for a reason--he actually does have something that is dangerous to those in power, even though he doesn't know it.

But then I like more action and less talk.

You can imagine how much I'm looking forward to reading Brave New World!


Okay, it gets 2 Aretha hats for being one of the first "Negative Utopias" written at the dawn of the Atomic Age, and Orwell gets extra credit for writing Animal Farm.


I'm afraid I have to give it a noose.