Sunday, December 31, 2017

After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, by Aldous Huxley. Elephant Paperback, 1939

This book is a somewhat odd mash-up of satire and philosophical lecture. On the one hand, we have an uber rich old man, Jo Stoyte, who lives in a castle in the San Fernando Valley. He owns a bank, a cemetery, an oil company… his home is reminiscent of Hearst Castle, filled with every modern convenience and stuffed with art from around the world bought with no plan or passion. His very young live in girlfriend is called The Baby. He also has a live in physician, Obispo, who has no redeeming qualities, (I do wonder where he got his degree) to watch over him, give him testosterone shots, and do research on extending the human life span. At the beginning of the story a British scholar, Jeremy Pordage, arrives, to work on the crates and crates of documents from the Hauberk family- this seems at first to have no bearing on the story, but in the end, it very much does. The other main characters are Peter, Obispo’s young, innocent assistant, and Mr. Propter, who does not live in the castle. While the other characters are the satire of capitalism, lechery, conspicuous consumption, Forest Lawn type cemeteries, and the fear of death, Propter is the moral and philosophical force. And, sadly, while the rest of the story is pretty amusing- and horrific in places- Propter is as dry as a mummy’s fart. He’s a noble person- he helps out the migrant workers (remember, this is during the Depression), is working on a way for people to be self-sufficient, and is against the kind of wealth aggregation that Stoyte represents- but he does not serve to advance the plot at all. It’s like Huxley couldn’t decide what kind of book to write, so he wrote them both and did not blend them elegantly at all. Four stars. 

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  2. The plot sounds interesting - and maybe timely. I'm not sure the characters would appeal to me