Just finished re-reading this book after my first introduction to it in 2008. Alas, I regrettably did not partake in any AP English courses in high sc...moreJust finished re-reading this book after my first introduction to it in 2008. Alas, I regrettably did not partake in any AP English courses in high school, so my latency is somewhat forgivable.
I would place this book in my top-10 must-read books for all humans in our particular epoch. I chose this edition specifically for two reasons: An introduction by one of my favorite authors of all time, Christopher Hitchens, and the secondary part of the book, "A Brave New World Revisited", in which Huxley evaluates his prescience (in some cases) with how "the future" (written in 1958) actually turned out. More on that later, though.
When I read this book initially I was not as educated as I am now, and the social implications in the book the first time around I found more agreeable (particularly the promiscuity) than I did this second time around. I would say the book means different things to different people throughout their lives -- and once you reach a certain level of education you realize the absolute social horror that this book actually portrays. The trials and tribulations The Savage experiences progressively throughout the book are extremely intense and by the tragic end of the book, I find it hard to believe that anybody with a good mind on their shoulders could find themselves anything but disgusted with society-at-large. This book is nothing if not an extremely emotional, intelligent cautionary tale -- and a masterpiece.
The secondary portion of this book, "A Brave New World Revisited" is almost no fiction and all fact. Statistics, social criticism, and further predictions fill the pages. The spot-on analysis Huxley provides proves true 50+ years after he wrote it. "Revisited" is for anyone who cares about our our planet and the shifty politics that govern it, in the past, present AND future.
"There are times when one wants to hold society's feet to the fire, and to force a confrontation, and to avoid the blandishments of those who always c...more"There are times when one wants to hold society's feet to the fire, and to force a confrontation, and to avoid the blandishments of those who always call upon everyone to "lighten up" and change the subject."
This snippet could summarize the intention of this entire book. The title alone was enough to make me interested, but the fact that it was written by Hitchens sealed the deal for me. Written in the style of Rainer Maria Rilke's 'Letters to a Young Poet', this book consists of faux "letters" written to Dear Reader, under the premise that Hitchens and the Reader have kept an ongoing correspondence with each other over the subject of being a young contrarian.
This book is chock-full of solid advice for those who like to fight and argue not only for moral reasons too-often ignored by the masses, but also those who fight and argue for the sake of fighting and arguing. It is inferred that, if people's opinions are not kept in check by those who would read this book, then the world would not be the place that it is today. The quote below is much more eloquent than I could put it:
"It is too much to expect to live in an age that is propitious for dissent. And most people, most of the time, prefer to seek approval or security. None the less, there are in all periods people who feel themselves in some fashion to be apart. And it is not too much to say that humanity is very much in debt to such people, whether it chooses to acknowledge the debt or not. (Don't expect to be thanked, by the way. The life of an oppositionist is supposed to be difficult.)"
I learned much from this book, and I expect it will take a good many re-reads to fully comprehend it. Hitchens saw so much, and is so well-read that it is truly an intellectually humbling experience to read anything he reads; it is an educational experience that will repay itself many times over.
Hitchens closes his book with the following, and it is great advice for a young contrarian to part with.
"Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the 'transcendent' and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don't be afraid to to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you."(less)