Reviews

Antic Hay, by Aldous Huxley

msand3's review against another edition

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2.0

This is the first disappointing work I’ve read from Huxley. While I’m sure it was considered razor-sharp satire in its day, I found the "elite British public school humor" to be grating -- either too dry/obscure for my American sensibilities or else overly-silly in a way that over-compensates for the rest of the novel’s snootiness.

I must admit a bias here: there is a certain type of early-20th-century British comedy of manners that I’ve never been able to enjoy. (Think Evelyn Waugh, Ronald Firbank, Max Beerbohm, etc.) I find that they are so enmeshed in the class they are satirizing that their novels simply become an artifact of that world rather than a work of universal essence. Writers like P.G. Wodehouse or Noël Coward also teeter on the edge of that style, but are often saved because they are, at heart, comedic writers, whereas Huxley, Waugh, et al., are great writers who are trying-on a comic style. The result is that novels like Antic Hay always feel like Terry-Thomas films without Terry-Thomas -- in other words, missing that vital hilarious element that elevates the work above its source material, which otherwise would be insufferable. (The whole point of Terry-Thomas’ marvelous persona is that he is able to take us into that world of upper-class twits and make us laugh at them rather than with them.) Instead of being that kind of work, Antic Hay simply becomes a novel about upper-class twits, which can be alienating and almost-insufferable for someone not of that particular class, culture, and era.

Perhaps I’m being too hard on Huxley, or perhaps I’m just the wrong audience for these kinds of novels. In either case, I just don’t enjoy them.

Thankfully, Huxley would move away from this style because I don’t know if I could take many more novels like this. I had planned to read [b:Crome Yellow|53672|Crome Yellow|Aldous Huxley|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1415575803s/53672.jpg|16335152] soon, but I might skip it in favor of Huxley’s later fiction, which I very much admire.

gretacwink's review against another edition

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4.0

It took me a bit to get into it, but then I was in. It's painfully, wonderfully depressing. There are no silver linings here.

fmatisli's review

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challenging informative slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

granasys's review against another edition

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challenging funny sad slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

2.0

This book is satirical for sure, but as it makes fun of people who are cynical and hopeless, it was not the right time for me to read it. I became even more miserable, as the characters ran after their own heads, being fake-deep and dramatic.

readingpanda's review

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4.0

I'm finding out that just reading Brave New World in high school doesn't really give you any sense of what sort of an author Aldous Huxley was.

Antic Hay is a novel about, essentially, the Lost Generation and their feelings of disaffection and uncertainty in the wake of World War I. A satire, it is at times just poking a bit of fun, at times jabbing viciously. The themes are pretty timeless: disillusionment, the experience of feeling adrift in the world, wondering if what you've wanted for yourself is really worth wanting. The characters are a group of acquaintances who cope with their ennui in a variety of ways - having affairs, becoming unhealthily obsessed with a woman in their social circle, quitting a job, committing to an artistic life, taking pretending to be someone else to new levels.

The interesting things to me about this book were twofold: 1, how easily Huxley switches between humor and despair in the narrative; and 2, how he expressed truths in ways that would be just as valid in today's world with only a few key words changed. For an example, check out the quote at the end of the review. I found the book easy to read and digest, and an interesting look at the time period as well as human nature in general.

Recommended for: people who know that the more things change the more they stay the same, people who need to be reminded that they are not, by any stretch of the imagination, the first to feel unmoored.

Quote: "[W]ould a man with unlimited leisure be free, Mr. Gumbril? I say he would not. Not unless he 'appened to be a man like you or me, Mr. Gumbril, a man of sense, a man of independent judgment. An ordinary man would not be free. Because he wouldn't know how to occupy his leisure except in some way that would be forced on him by other people. People don't know 'how to entertain themselves now; they leave it to other people to do it for them. They swallow what's given them. They 'ave to swallow it, whether they like it or not. Cinemas, newspapers, magazines, gramophones, football matches, wireless, telephones -- take them or leave them, if you want to amuse yourself. The ordinary man can't leave them. He takes; and what's that but slavery?"

2000ace's review

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4.0

Antic Hay is a mishmash of various topics on the mind of Aldous Huxley after the end of the first World War. Told from the perspective of a number of different characters, it may suffer from a lack of focus on a plot, but never deviates from Huxley incisive insights into the culture of the time.

jgwc54e5's review

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3.0

A comic novel about the useless classes in the early 1920s. The main character invents gumbrils patented small clothes! Pneumatic trousers for comfort. It seems quite modern particularly about sex and religion. 3* because I don’t read latin and there’s also references I don’t really get.

kjcharles's review

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Huxley's first book, a satire of dreadful people in the early 1920s. Flashes of brilliance in description don't make up for the plotlessness, or several lengthy and excruciating stretches of thinly disguised authorial hobbyhorse-racing, and it's full of misogyny including a nasty victim-blaming rape scene, racism, and antisemitism. Deeply avoidable.
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