Sunday, 01 May, 2005

Brave New World

Debra inherited about a thousand books a few years ago when her friend passed away.  As with most personal libraries, it's a somewhat eclectic collection with books about the old west, Arizona ghost towns, geology, mystery novels, and many that are hard to classify.  Debra's friend Dee apparently was a big customer of Time Magazine's reading program, as her library included several of their collections.  That's where I found Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

My formal education, what little there is of it, didn't include much in the way of literature.  I'd certainly heard of the book and I had some idea what it was about, but I'd never taken the time to read it, mostly because I figured it was another one of those "classics" that the critics loved but has no redeeming value (i.e. Catcher in the Rye).  As you might expect, I was pleasantly surprised by Brave New World.

The book is short, only 227 pages in the edition I have, not nearly long enough to fully describe the Utopian society and the clash of values that occurs when members of that society encounter non-Utopian "savages."  Huxley's genius is in his selection of language and scenes to place the reader inside that society; to give us glimpses of what things are like and allow our minds to expand on the vision.  The book is more disturbing because of it; because many of the images we see are created in our own minds.

Too many writers from the school of "more is better" produce 800-page tomes that describe every minute detail, leaving little room at all for imagination.  I've read many a book that would have been much better had the writer exercised a little restraint in his description, forcing the reader to engage his brain and visualize the scene.  There is a fine line between enough and too much description.  Too much is junk food for the mind and the words wash over the brain like a television sitcom.  Just enough description forces the reader to pay attention, to pause periodically and consider what he's read before moving on to the next scene.

There are nits I could pick with the book, and I could laugh at the many things Huxley got wrong about future technology.  But I can't fault his writing.  On the contrary, I was delighted by the book.  It got the author's point across very clearly, and gave me plenty to think about.  It was a joy to read, and I'll probably read it again in a few years.  Highly recommended.