I finished Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, last night, and will re-read it again before the shared inquiry discussion of it in late April at Great Books Chicago.
I love shared inquiry, which works by way of interpretive questions and answers supported by evidence from the text. We are all together in the adventure of discovery; we are equals, responsible and accountable for what we think and say, we talk only about the text, and we learn a lot from each other.
We are not being lectured to by an expert—neither a real expert (although I love listening to real experts at other kinds of events) nor a fake expert, male or female, who mansplains.
A Great Books shared inquiry discussion is like going to a really good book group where everybody has actually read the book and will talk about it. Not about their work day, or how they got bogged in the middle of the book and went golfing and realized that Huxley was the same guy who took LSD in the 1960s, or how Oprah got poets to model the new spring fashions.
I just realized it must be Cranky Doodle Day in the blog.
And I just realized "cranky doodles" are a real thing, and people draw them and blog about them. See A Bird on the Head for more wonderful cranky doodles, like "Extremely Depressed Poop."
Anyhoo, I did read the contextual material at the back of this particular paperback edition of Brave New World:
—a biographical essay, “Aldous Huxley: A Life of the Mind”
—a summary of the critical reaction to the book, “Too Far Ahead of Its Time?: The Contemporary Response to Brave New World (1932)” (literary critics saw its shortcomings as a novel, and it has some, but it surely became a popular classic as social criticism, science fiction, and political philosophy)
—A letter from Huxley to George Orwell, upon receiving 1984 from Orwell’s publisher in 1949
—a list of Huxley’s publications, reminding me to get Point Counter Point and Eyeless in Gaza from the library someday, and to re-read Island, which is on one of my bookshelves
OK, Huxley did sound like a bit of a mansplainer in his letter to Orwell, telling him that the future will probably be more like his own description in Brave New World, based on the advances in hypnosis, and that “the ultimate revolution” with which 1984 concerns itself really has its roots in the actions and philosophy of the Marquis de Sade, etc.
According to Wikipedia, Orwell suggested that Huxley must have been influenced in his dystopian vision by the novel We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin, but Huxley denied this. Orwell says 1984 was modeled on We, and Huxley says he wrote Brave New World in response to H.G. Wells. More re-reading and library visits to come, although I am afraid of the cover of We.
I am happy to hear from all experts, science fiction readers, and, yes, mansplainers on the connections between these novels! As long as you’ve actually read them.
In weather news, it’s snowing. The brave old season, winter, has resumed, just in ironic time for The Architecture of Spring: A Poetry Reading in response to A Passion for Detail: The Architectural Legacy of A. L. Pillsbury, tonight at 7:30 at the McLean County Museum of History.
Thanks to Julie Kistler for covering it in her blog, A Follow Spot, where she gives biographical information about Pillsbury, the golfing architect.
Until spring returns, I'm still with Ella, a Little Girl Blue.