Monday, February 28, 2011

Brave New WorldBrave New World by Aldous Huxley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I googled "which should I read first" when I tried to decide whether to read Brave New World first or 1984. Most of the interweb's eloquent writers wrote, in few words, to not bother with 'Brave New World', but no I wanted to read it.

And I'm glad I did.

Brave New World was a little difficult- to be honest it reads like a Science journal, which makes sense when I read the brief biography about Huxley. I guess in his early twenties he suffered an illness that left him blind for like two years- ruining his early aspirations to be a doctor. Later finding his true calling in becoming a writer he was always interested & highly influenced by science.

It may be trite, but 'Brave New World' does read like a complete poem. You have to keep a wide eye view on the story as a whole as Huxley skips around a bit in his storytelling. There would be times when I would be lost and drifting and yearning to find a point and other times where the imagery was specific & beautiful & I was entranced.

Here are just a few examples of those moments:

"I feel... as though I were beginning to be able to use that power I feel I've got inside me-- that extra, latent power. Something seems to be coming to me." Hermoltz

"What fun it would be, if one didn't have to think about happiness." -Mustapha Mond

Lenina who had lingered for a moment to look at the moon, dropped her eyes and came hurrying across the roof to join him. Drying her eyes, she walked across to the lift.

My favorite characters in this book would have to be the salvation in this book to me: John & Lenina. I also enjoyed Mustapha Mond quite a bit, who in my mind resembled Alan Rickman.

*Some Spoilers

John quickly becomes the main character and the person the reader begins to be represented by. He is one of the savages from out of the 'civilized' compound raised by a mother, Linda, who yearns for her home life with the civilized ones with their sex play, 'feelies' and 'soma' drug relief. You learn how John came into contact with a rare book from some guy called Shakespeare entitled "Complete Works". When ever john talks with another character or thinks out for the reader he interjects bits of Shakespeare. Relating a of his life to Romeo & Juliet, Othello, Hamlet & of course Tempest with 'Brave New World'.

"O Brave New World, that has such people in it...."

Lenina is a refreshing character in that she seems to finally have a change of heart, and for me that was quite exciting to have a character finally questioning their environment. She falls in love with John, the savage, and experiences the first frustrations of love (jealousy, low self esteem, etc). Love in this society is almost like a swear word- and sex is a obstacle to be conquered easily & quickly as to not get too frustrated or sad.

John who reciprocates Lenina's feelings (in fact probably more so) but is offended at the instant satisfaction & gluttony of her world- and would rather courtship, love & marriage. Lenina just can't understand- you see her eyes cloud over with the wish to be drugged and make it wash away.

Okay- the biggest pay of this book does indeed come at the end, where the controller of world their society, Mustapha Mond explains why these changes were made.

"we did a great deal to change the emphasis & beauty to comfort & happiness... Universal happiness keeps the wheels steadily turning; truth and beauty can't."

It was interesting how Mond described how their society had no need of a God even if God did in fact exist. In a world where you never age, are never alone, are never unhappy, why would you have to rely on a God? That their civilization had no need of such virtues such as nobility or heroism, there is no cause for their attendance.

John states: "You got rid of them. Yes, that's just like you. Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it. Whether 'tis better in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end the,... But you don't do either. Neither suffer nor oppose. You just abolish the slings and arrows. It's too easy. I'm claiming the right to be unhappy."

Mond: "Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat, the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind."

"Christianity without tears, that's what 'soma' is."

To me- the book seemed to toy'd with the phrase 'Ignorance is bliss'. And towards the end of the book- the reader will definitely question this phrase, which I liked.

But don't take my word for it! buh duh duh!

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Screwtape Letters - How a Senior Devil Instructs a Junior Devil in the Art of Temptation.The Screwtape Letters - How a Senior Devil Instructs a Junior Devil in the Art of Temptation. by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been meaning to read this book for quite awhile- a more perfect time in my life could not have come before however, and I'm glad that I am reading this now, at this time in my life.

Way before Screwtape Letters I completed reading The Chronicles of Narnia, my first introduction to C.S. Lewis. I praised those books because they offered a rare lesson in Christianity. Lessons of Christ and His teachings at a slant, at an angle that isn't often taught; and I found it refreshing.

The same can be said for The Screwtape Letters.

At the end of each letter I wrote at the beginning the basics of what Screwtape counseled and sought to help promote. All of the seven sins are present but virtues too- virtues twisted and bent till they're unrecognizable.

One of the clearest ones I recognized was complacency, and I see it all around myself and in my friends. A longing to be better, an urge to be worse.

Few of my favorite underlined parts:

"A Being which can still love is not yet a Devil."

"All mortals turn into the thing they're pretending to be."

"That kind of humor.... is a thousand miles from joy; it deadens, instead of sharpening; the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it."

"I now see that I spent my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked."

"When He talks of them losing their selves, He means only abandoning their clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back their personality, and boast (I'm afraid sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever."

"The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel."

"The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbor's talents."

"He has created, and always gives back to them with His right hand what He has taken from his left."

"For the present is the point at which time touches eternity.... Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the future. Gratitude looks to the Past and love to the Present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead."

"He has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence. He has contrived to gratify both tastes together in the very world He has made, by that union of change and permanence, which we call rhythm."

"He {Man} [In reference to the World] feels like he is finding is place in it, while really it is finding its place in him."

The last two letters alone are worth the read. Screwtape talks about the Blitz and England at the dawn of WWII and it's an awakening moment for the reader. Screwtape talks about the balance between keeping the human out of a religious stupor but not enough danger and sin to wake them out of it. The best way to the human would be through fear- that the world in his disillusioned state is how the world really is. Intellectual attack doesn't work you can always try attacking the emotions. "It turns on making him feel, when he first sees human remains plastered on a wall, that this is "what the world really is like" & that all religion has been a fantasy. You will notice how we have gotten them completely fogged on the word 'real'.... Thus in birth the blood & pain are 'real', the terror and ugliness reveal what death 'really means.' The hatefulness of a hated person is 'real'-- in hatred you see men as they are, you are disillusioned; but the loveliness of a loved person is merely a subjective haze concealing a 'real' core of sexual appetite or economic association."

In contrast, letter 31 is a breath of fresh air.

The man being tempted is brought to a moment of true awakening & to use the term, enlightenment.

So does the reader, hopefully....

Here's hoping.

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