Paquita Maria Sanchez's Reviews > After Many a Summer Dies the Swan

After Many a Summer Dies the Swan by Aldous Huxley
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Feb 02, 2015

really liked it
bookshelves: literature

I've noticed through the few reviews that I have scanned, and in the comments made by friends who have read this less-known Huxley novel, that it is widely considered to be a lesser work, a novel too bombastic to maintain proper momentum and sustain the reader's attention. To be candid, my roommate told me it took him nine months of toilet-reading to get through it, and he spent the two weeks that I was reading it (actually only a week when you factor in the days and days I spent out of town and away from it) making fun of me and it by saying things like "Hi, I'm Aldous Huxley, and I like to describe cemeteries." He is a Huxley fan, to be clear...a fan who so happens to positively detest this novel.

This is the chief complaint I've encountered: too much philosophizing, too much description, not enough plot; in a word, boring. I couldn't disagree more. Well, I suppose technically I could, as I can see how some of the many chapters containing pages upon pages of philosophical musings may put a lot of people off. However, when I was sprawled out in the silence of my bedroom in the company of this book, I was all in. Huxley's words shoot off the page like fine-focused film projections, filling your brain with crystal-clear pictures of the scenes that he describes, of the nervous tics and body language of every character, of the line of logic contained in each action, and the means the characters use to hide (whether effectively or not) their intentions through disingenuous words, disingenuous gestures, and disingenuous rationalizations. You know these people and their weaknesses as you know your own; as you know the world in all its masked insincerities and ugly truths. If you are of a somewhat paranoid nature, the kind to question (often, perhaps, too severely) the motives behind the words and mannerisms of those around you (boy, I am and do), then you will certainly be able to relate to Huxley's narrative voice in this novel. More than once I found myself chuckling and saying things to myself like "oh, yeah, they do that" ("they" meaning anyone I am distrustfully observing in a social situation) or "I call bullshit!" when someone's actions are subtly and cleverly depicted as being motivated by and exhibiting, well, bullshit. Perhaps that means this book is made for the paranoid personalities such as myself? Whatever, it keeps me relatively safe from harm via deception, and it helped me to enjoy this book more than most people I have encountered.

Compliments: sharp, hilarious, and informative. A lot of the "wordiness" is Huxley discussing his notions of a Utopian Society in an admirably, urm, "hippie" fashion for his time. He even lays out the logistics for a community that would be almost entirely self-sufficient, as well as highly-sustainable. His views on the futility and vanity behind the quest for "eternal life" are well-articulated, illustrating the inevitability of death as a blessing disregarded in favor of youth, beauty, general self-importance, and blindly groping through life fixated on sensation alone. He makes arguments concerning the abandonment of ego and the embrace of "right living" which echoed some of the tenets of Buddhism to which I can most relate. In this regard, I was with him. The plot is engaging, and resolved fully enough to leave the reader feeling sated, while still providing ample room for a few dot dot dots of thought.

Complaints: Huxley presents the resolution to all the troubles of existence as ye ole reliable, you guessed it, spirituality. Through the character William Propter, Huxley expounds upon his view that no true peace can be known, no life worth living, no gesture effective if it is not guided by the higher cause of transcending the earthly plain to the realm of the metaphysical. The notion of a higher-power is often brought up, delivering (at least to me, personally) one of those feelings you get if, say, you are on a date with someone that is going well until they suddenly start telling you about their pro-life views or how "oh yeah, you're a Pisces, I can totally see it now, because bla bla bla..." Though these examples may not fit your own views, I think you can probably relate to that sinking feeling, and the accompanying disappointed exhalation such a brick wall between worldviews can elicit. All I kept thinking was how much I could appreciate most of the threads of Huxley's argument, but not the garment itself. So, call me judgmental if you like, call me blinded with science, or hell, just call me a heretic and burn me alive. Huxley's still losing a star for that one.

Worth your time. Anyone wanna trade?

ADDENDUM: As I said in the comments section, and then lazily cut-and-pasted: my review totally leaves out the plot, I just noticed, so here it is: this rich guy really, really doesn't want to die, so he has this doctor try to figure out how to keep him alive forever.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Peter I learned quite a lot from this book and the narrative about the fifth earl eating raw carp guts to unnaturally enhance his intestinal flora and thereby stave off old age is brilliant, but there are many things that bother me about this novel. The most annoying thing to me is that Huxley detests all of his characters--I hate that in a novel. The best books make the reader feel smart. The language in this book, while sophisticated and smart, lacks felicity. Its as if Huxley was not content with the novel. He was always trying to expand and redefine the novel instead of writing great novels. I think the ending was rushed. When Huxley realized the horror of his creation he felt internal pressure to end the novel quickly (instead of focusing on Mr, Propter at the end of the novel, he leaves that string untied).

Paquita Maria Sanchez It has been years since I read this and reviewed it, but I will--immediately, without even cracking the book--agree that the ending felt rushed.

message 3: by Oziel (new) - added it

Oziel Bispo i just finished the book and i loved your review.

Paquita Maria Sanchez Oh, thank you! I almost forgot about this review.

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