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Point Counter Point (British Literature) Paperback – October 1, 1996

4.1 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When it was published in 1928, Point Counter Point no doubt shocked its readers with frank depictions of infidelity, sexuality, and the highbrow high jinks of Aldous Huxley's arty characters. What's truly remarkable, however, is how his novel continues to shock today. True, we may hardly lift an eyebrow at poor Marjorie Carling leaving her husband to live in sin with--and get pregnant by--her lover Walter Bidlake. And the sexual exploits of Lady Edward Tantamount or her daughter, Lucy, seem quite in keeping with the behavior expected of such exalted persons by readers inured to the exploits of the British Royals. If the varieties of sexual experience on display in Huxley's novel seem tame by current standards, his clear-eyed dissection of the motives behind them are thrillingly fresh--and his commentaries on everything from politics to ecology sometimes chillingly prescient. Take for example, the wisdom of amateur biologist Lord Edward Tantamount on the subject of non-renewable resources:
"No doubt," he said, "you think you can make good the loss with phosphate rocks. But what'll you do when the deposits are exhausted?" He poked Everard in the shirt front. "What then? Only two hundred years and they'll be finished. You think we're being progressive because we're living on our capital Phosphates, coal, petroleum, nitre--squander them all. That's your policy. And meanwhile you go round trying to make our flesh creep with talk about revolutions."
When his interlocutor, the fascist politician Everard Webley, demands to know whether Lord Edward wants a revolution, Tantamount first asks whether such an event would reduce the population and check production and then, when assured it would, he responds, "'Then certainly I want a revolution.' The Old Man thought in terms of geology and was not afraid of logical conclusions."

Huxley fills his novel with a multitude of characters, from the obscenely wealthy Tantamounts to the priapic painter John Bidlake, his children Walter and Elinor, and their respective mates, Marjorie Carling and Philip Quarles. There is also the venomous Maurice Spandrell, the revolutionary Illidge, the unctuous Burlap, and the happily married (a rarity in this novel) Mark and Mary Rampion, who are the book's moral center--theirs is the one relationship that combines reason and passion in proper measure. They are purportedly in part based on well-known figures of the time such as D.H. Lawrence and Katherine Mansfield. Love, loss, infidelity, and murder are the subjects under discussion as Huxley juxtaposes one point of view against its opposite, and mixes in a healthy dollop of science, politics, religion, and art, as well. Point Counter Point is an intelligent novel about the intellectual world, and one that bears up gracefully under the test of time. --Alix Wilber

From Publishers Weekly

Huxley's satire of 1920s intellectual life takes formal inspiration from classical music.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: British Literature
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press (October 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564781313
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564781314
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) is the author of the classic novels Island, Eyeless in Gaza, and The Genius and the Goddess, as well as such critically acclaimed nonfiction works as The Devils of Loudun, The Doors of Perception, and The Perennial Philosophy. Born in Surrey, England, and educated at Oxford, he died in Los Angeles.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Hearken back those of you who remember introductory literature classes and lectures on the difference between "story" and "plot." "Point Counter Point is rather short on story, but it's absolutely dripping in plot. Not much happens that could be easily summarized on a book cover, but so much happens in the way of character development and psychological insight that the results are nearly mind-boggling. How Huxley could develop such a large cast of characters so thoroughly is one of the greatest testaments I can make to his ability as an artist, and for those who love to sink their teeth into complex characterizations and psychological motivations, this book will have you frothing at the mouth.

One should read "Point Counter Point" not for the destination, but for the journey. The ending is eerily and disquietingly ambiguous; Huxley is not as interested in passing judgements on his characters as he is in illustrating how complicated the act of living is and how there is likely no one approach to life that will adequately prepare one for its tragedies and twists of fate. A somewhat cynical point of view perhaps, and certainly not comforting to those in search of the big answers to life's big questions, but very realistic. There's hardly a page of this novel that didn't strike a chord with me and put perfectly into words either an idea I have myself or a character trait that I can instantly recognize in someone else.

Though published nearly 80 years ago, this novel feels like it could have been written yesterday (some period differences aside, of course) so relevant do these characters' conflicts, escapades, fears and desires seem. Huxley's book is a reminder that 80 years isn't all that long in the course of human events, nor really is 200, 300 or 400 years.
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Format: Paperback
Aldous Huxley's reputation as a writer of fiction rests on three works: _Antic Hay_, _Brave New World_, and _Point Counter Point_. In this book, the most ambitious and successful of the three, he examines in detail the ideas and personalities of the British intelligentsia of the late twenties. Their politics, their sexuality, their world view, their love of life, and their fear of death are ruthlessly dissected for our delectation.

Huxley accomplishes this by developing various themes with one group of characters and then reintroducing them with another group, whose members view similar developments from a different perspective. Situations, ideas, and figures of speech recur in altered form throughout the novel. Oftentimes, he accomplishes this effect with a great deal of gentleness and subtlety.

Two brothers-in-law, Walter Bidlake and Philip Quarles, are clearly projections of Huxley at different ages. They interact with each other and the other members of the large cast of characters. A third, diabolical character, Maurice Spandrell, is more or less Huxley's Jungian shadow. D.H. Lawrence is projected into the story as Mark Rampion, and John Middleton Murry appears as Denis Burlap. We are allowed inside the minds of these five men, letting us see the events of the story from many points of view. For that matter, we are allowed inside the minds of all the characters. In particular, we are allowed inside the mind of the frighteningly seductive femme fatale, Lucy Tantamount, who is a projection of Nancy Cunard.

Communists and Fascists, apolitical seekers of wholeness, God-seekers, and bored aesthetes offer their views on the events and ideas of the time and on each other. Sometimes these oppositions escalate into violence.
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Format: Paperback
I thought Point Counter Point was probably one of the best books that I have ever read. What drew me in the most was the ability Huxley has to portray many characters, all of whom are very different. The subtle way in which Huxley questions the idle spirit of modern man are at once both funny and disturbing. It is amazing how little has changed since the publication of the book...
All in all, I was left feeling awed that someone could write a book that was so good.... and I was sad to have to finish it... it was the type of book you wish could last indefinately.
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Format: Print on Demand (Paperback)
Aldous Huxley's 1928 novel opens with a grand London party given by Lady Edward Tantamount. Music plays. Dozens of characters cross the stage, meet briefly, argue, and part. Some go on to a restaurant that stays open past midnight; there, they meet still more characters and argue some more; several of them continue to yet another party in the early hours of the morning. We are now 100 pages into the book, a quarter of the way through. The numerous characters will continue to bump into each other over the next days and months, but the essential texture of the opening will not change.

If you Google the title, the question comes back "Did you mean Point Counterpoint?" Well, no. Counterpoint is a musical term implying line and movement: two or more voices, intertwining with one another, echoing, developing, but never standing still. Huxley certainly understands that music implies movement -- his descriptions of actual music are superb -- but his method as a novelist is essentially static: to set characters off against one another, each of whom represents a different point of view. The book is thus a series of debates, some funny, some serious, all clever. But the characters ricochet off one another like balls on a pool table; this is truly a matter of point clashing with point; there is no line, little movement, and almost no plot.

Oddly enough, Huxley has one of his characters, a writer, criticize his own method: "Novel of ideas. The character of each personage must be implied, as far as possible, in the ideas of which he is the mouthpiece. In so far as theories are rationalizations of sentiments, instincts, dispositions of soul, this is feasible.
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