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After Many a Summer Dies the Swan Paperback – September, 1983
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In this novel, Huxley plays on man's fear of death. He creates a somewhat W. R. Hearst-like rich businessman who wants to use his money and power to cheat Death, and a scientist who has no compunctions against using any means to lengthen life, without questioning what quality that extended life really has. The ending is a real surprise.
This is one of Huxley's most enjoyable novels to read. It is also a timely one that can be read in the light of the new genetic research pusing the boundaries of science. As in Brave New World, Huxley was frighteningly accurate in his prophesies.
However, when reading a book like this it's important not to get too focused on only one of the many interesting ideas that fly like sparks from Huxley's mind. Explorations of mortality, eroticism, class struggle, mysticism, greed, ...etc. are all presented dispassionately enough. As such, they're like colors on Huxley's palette; and it's not rewarding to complain about a particular shade of green.
The thing that struck me was that Huxley is very specific about the character types he chooses to include here. His decision to pit the grasping Stoyte against the impossibly saint-like Propter elaborates an inner-dialogue one can imagine Huxley was having to reconcile his own idealized world-view with the reality he had encountered in America. In doing this Huxley provides justification and outlines a strategy for implementing his utopian vision.
For me; it's this attempt to reconcile the world of ideas with reality that, like with much of Hesse's work, seems to be the focal point of the book. I'm looking forward to reading Huxley's later books to see how he develops this attempted reconciliation.
Reading it and some other Huxley material this year, I am struck by how singleminded AH is in his ideas. Every essay, every story, at least after the 1930s, is driven by his desire to show how humanity is lost in a maze of materialist illusion. He is a mystic, and if that tickles you, perhaps his extended intellectual diaglogs in this book will interest you. Otherwise, just read the deliciously satirical parts. (His detached prose describing the movements of A nearly naked young starlet's body is a tour de force of clinical eroticism).
His literary skills are enormous, his description of southern california in the 30s rang true in the 70s when I lived there and read it, and still do. His humour, arch, esoteric, but sharp, can be a joy. When he gets serious, that's when he has a problem as he lapses into portentous nonsense about the ground of being, the One, etc. Huxley was a acid head long before he started dabbling with drugs - and his mystical discussions make little sense, unless you are already of that mind. Aesthetically, they are highly repetitive and rather irritating.
Readers who want an introduction to his work would do better, I think, to begin with his best, Brave New World. In that one, he used his considerable gifts to their best advantage, and kept his endless and indulgent maundering to a minimum.
True, it may not qualify as "a literary masterpiece" in academic circles, but surely the clarity of those images in my mind after all these years qualifies it for some kind of prize! I was delighted to find it back in print.
Huxley may not have had a scientist's clear understanding of Darwin's Theory of Evolution. Indeed the artistic license he took with that theory may well have given many fighting the Creationism vs. Evolution battle some misinformation to fuel their firey debates, but his insights into human nature, his fascination with and revulsion for America and Americans rings as true and insightful today as it did in 1939.
Read this book! It will tickle your funny bone and keep you thinking for decades to come.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This novel had the makings of greatness. The quest for longevity. The mindlessness of consumerism. The zaniness of LA. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Bruce Watson
As a philosophical novel, this is a clumsy and very preachy work—heavy on the Advaita Vedanta blather, although there are some insights here and there. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Royce P. Grubic
This well told tale contains, in the voice of one of its characters, a philosophy that explains why human history is NOT also human progress and presents one of the ways this could... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Charles W. Riendeau
Personally I love philosophy, especially in the delivery of a novel such as this. Aldous Huxley isn't for everyone, and some may consider his work dry but as soon as you get use to... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Jewfro
Many people state Brave New World to be practically the only Huxley worth reading. Those people have not read After Many Summer Dies the Swan. Read morePublished 19 months ago by E.V.