Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Antic Hay by Aldous Huxley

Before landing on every high school reading list with Brave New World (which I should really reread) Huxley wrote Antic Hay, a book about richish do-nothings and their hangers on in London in the early 1920s. Everyone is post-university so there are quotes and Latin and Greek phrases galore to wade through, most of which matter little to the plot, luckily.

The main character, Theodore Gumbril, is a not-so-young man on the verge of doing something. Something to do with manufacturing and selling pneumatic trousers. Then a bunch of stuff happens, a bunch of exquisite sentences describe the stuff that happens and in the end there is nothing.

I did like the book. I did! I read it during the bulk of our renovations, mostly on the toilet, mostly to be transported elsewhere. It did the job. But, the mores and lifestyles skewered here are not mine (or my parents’) so a certain amount of detachment (present whenever I read Waugh or Greene or whatever old, dead British drole-doller) latched itself onto me when I read through the tales of drinking, being bad and breaking hearts.

One character stood out. Gumbril’s father, Gumbril Sr. is a lost man, an architect with no one willing to build his projects. In one passage his giant model of London, built as if Christopher Wren’s plans had been entirely executed, along with some touches of Gumbril Sr. himself, is a worthy literary creation and I like that Huxley allows Gumbril Sr. some of the best lines.

This book is well worth a read if you want to get away from it all, just don’t expect to remember much of it later. Actually, I think that is a result that the wild, wacky kids of Antic Hay could get behind.

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