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Antic Hay

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  1,725 ratings  ·  136 reviews
Antic Hay is one of Aldous Huxley's earlier novels, and like them is primarily a novel of ideas involving conversations that disclose viewpoints rather than establish characters; its polemical theme unfolds against the backdrop of London's post-war nihilistic Bohemia. This is Huxley at his biting, brilliant best, a novel, loud with derisive laughter, which satirically ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published May 4th 2005 by Kessinger Publishing (first published 1923)
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Average rating 3.42  · 
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Aug 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My men, like satyrs grazing on the lawns,
Shall with their goat-feet dance the antic hay
Edward II by Christopher Marlowe

Brenda Salkeld

This is Brenda Salkeld dancing the antic hay. Orwell had recommended Antic Hay to her in the 1930s, but alas she wouldn't dance with him.

Huxley wanted to dance with Nancy Cunard but she likened his advances to being crawled over by slugs.
Nancy Cunard & slug

So he crawled away and he wrote this zany and very smart satire.

The characters Myra Viveash and Theodore Gumbril
Vit Babenco
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A mad world exists for those who dare to have mad dreams… And they dance through their lives trying to invent, to love, to find happiness and their dance is called Antic Hay.
Most lovers picture to themselves, in their mistresses, a secret reality, beyond and different from what they see every day. They are in love with somebody else – their own invention. And sometimes there is a secret reality; and sometimes reality and appearance are the same. The discovery, in either case, is likely to cause
Mar 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books, england
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
One senses that Huxley was aiming for a little mordant social satire when he wrote this book, to capture the Zeitgeist while landing a few deft jabs at British society in the aftermath of World War I. But "Antic Hay" is a clunky, sorry mess, whose primary virtue is its brevity. Heavyhanded and confused, it never gels to anything even remotely memorable.

Not too hard to figure out why. There is no discernible plot - instead, various stock characters are dragged in and out of the action,
K.J. Charles
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.
Jun 24, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My Vintage Classics edition of Antic Hay describes it as “wickedly funny” and perhaps, to those reading it around 1923, when it was first published, this social satire seemed the height of hilarity. Then again, perhaps not...

The plot, such as it is, is merely a device for Aldous Huxley to convey different viewpoints. The lack of any real story is, for a work of fiction, a serious limitation, and one I struggled with. Additionally, a classical education, and some familiarity with French and
Aug 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were a lot of interesting passages in this book and plenty of funny wordplay. It really gave the sense of the post WW1 period, when nothing seemed to have much meaning. Gumbril has a real chance at love but allows it to pass, choosing to spend time with Mrs. Viveash instead. His big scheme for inflatable trousers doesn't quite succeed either. Myra Viveash is trapped in the past, Lypiatt is the victim of his own enthusiastic mediocrity, Rosie mistakes temporary amusement for meaningful ...more
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Huxley’s second novel is a satire set in the early 1920s. The cloud of WW1 is there with people trying to find meaning in meaningless things. Gumbril the key male character abandons the mindlessness of teaching to develop his pneumatic trouser bottoms. He also embarks with some affairs where he gains courage through his fake beard. The story is sad as well as humorous with the failed artist Lypiatt and Shearwater with his wife Rosie. Mrs Viveash who all the men are in love but who does not love ...more
Jun 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1001-books
I feel a little ambivalent about this novel; some parts were really quite amusing but others were merely tedious and I found that the boring bits seemed to outweigh the interesting passages on average. It also suffers from that common pitfall of 'society' novels - when portraying restless, bored and ultimately unfilled characters you might wind up with a restless, boring and ultimately unfulfilling story.

Antic Hay was very restless, it flitted around characters and social scenes but did retain
Huxley's reach exceeded his grasp. A comedy of manners, a comedy of ideas - this is a salmagundi of everything going on among the chattering classes and the bright young things in London of the 20s, with no coherent vision or even story. Amusing enough and occasionally interesting as an idea was worth more than the time it took to read it, but the title says it all.
Jennifer W
Aug 07, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I haven't the foggiest idea what all that was, but it's over now.
Jan 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: from-library
Huxley was the first author I picked up when I ventured out of the YA section at 11 or so. I'm not sure if this is why I enjoy his writing so much.

This book may initially fool you into thinking it's a journey from start to finish, but about 3/4 way through, it becomes apparent that it's more about building a situation and developing character (especially the latter). As with other Huxley the conversations are carefully crafted and more intelligent than those of us 21st century folk, with lots
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, reviews, 1001
If Antic Hay escapes uncastigated and unpilloried the effect upon English fiction will be disastrous...We shall have herds of literary rats exploring every sewer...The cloacre of vice will be dredged for fresh infamies...The novel will creep and crawl with the vermin of diseased imaginations. (Review in The Sunday Express, 25 Nov. 1923)

The Sunday Express may not have been fulsome in its praise, but Antic Hay is a fine novel, with a wonderful mixture of classical erudition and lost generation
Nov 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Huxley is in that category of writers I don't really find very satisfactory for the most part, but who possess some quality I enjoy. His novels are very readable, often intellectually scintillating, contain superb satire, and eventually come to a point where the wry, sardonic tone is abandoned for serious empathy with the plight of at least one character.

This is an early effort with all of the above qualities, but in fairly small quantities -- kind of a Brave New World-lite. It is, by the way,
Jul 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Really enjoyed this comic satire of a set of 1920s middle/upper class bohemian drifters - not unsympathetic characters - in the aftermath of the First World War. I didn't know what to expect when I picked it up, was rather dreading melodrama and exaggeration ala Evelyn Waugh but did not find it. In fact, the characters have enough warmth and the scenes are imbued with enough life, comedy and verisimilitude to keep one turning the pages until the end. I read it on one lazy Sunday and was ...more
Apr 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
I read this book because Lois Gordon's excellent biography of Nancy Cunard cites it. Huxley apparently had a brief liason with Cunard and then made her a character in this book. I wish I could recognize the other players, all of whom were given absurd and suggestive names in Antic Hay. (Cunard is Mrs. Viveash.) It's largely satirical, and in equal measure bilious and hilarious. The writing is sharp and vivid, but the overall tone suggests the depth of disillusion that resulted from the disaster ...more
Partha Banerjee
Jun 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The first great novel of Huxley dealing with the disenchantment of affluent Britain with all kinds of belief systems leading to utter wastefulness and decadence. Huxley carefully dissects the idle pursuits that consume the rich and the famous, their boredom with everything, the lack of any meaning in their lives and the concomitant chaos that ensues.
Steve Dewey
Jan 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: novel, fiction, huxley
I enjoyed Antic Hay, but found its second half better than its first. The novel starts slowly, and when the protagonist, Gumbril, meets his intellectual and arty friends in London and thus introduces us to them, I almost despaired. Certainly, Huxley was a bright and intelligent young thing, and his friends certainly would also have been intelligent and intellectual and arty. However, when somebody tries to capture the essence of such situations they inevitably fall flat - what is charming, ...more
Colin Thibodeau
May 08, 2018 rated it did not like it
Fucking boring...then again, I read it in 11th grade, so eventually I’ll go back and give it another shot, but I remember the dialogue putting me to sleep..
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Disappointing. Early promise in the manner of an Evelyn Waugh farce evaporates as Huxley's cardboard characters go thru their manic motions (alternate title: Manic Clay) with a determined desperation that approaches hysteria. The pointless bitterness is so palpable it forms an impenetrable barrier thru which no empathy can pass for this collection of pathetic creatures, all miserable in their various self-made prisons. Some years ago I noted a trend in contemporary fiction & coined the ...more
Dec 02, 2010 rated it it was ok
Once I had finished reading Antic Hay I wasn't really sure what it had all been about. The title Antic Hay is from a quote from Edward II by Christopher Marlowe and refers to a playful dance. I thought it would be the name of a character and was waiting all the time for him to turn up!

The writing was very good, but I guess you would really need to have moved in the circles described to fully appreciate what he was getting at. The book was controversial when first published due to its sexual
Mar 12, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 1001-books
I was really disappointed with this - I loved Brave New World so I was looking forward to it. Having come to the end, I still don't really know what it was about, there was no real resolution and I didn't like any of the characters enough to care. It seemed a bit of an excuse to write about womanising in the Twenties but with no real point.
Jun 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Huxley is a very powerful writer who here has capture the real essence of the zeitgeist of the twenties. A few times in my life I have read books that, above and beyond any plot or characters, just so perfectly capture a feeling, the spirit of the age I'm living in, that they start to resonate on a higher level.
Antic Hay starts to do that for me, but for a time I never even experienced. It really expresses the existential dread of a generation who have just experienced the worst conflict the
Bob Newman
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Poms Behaving Badly

The post-World War I blahs manifest themselves in a group of young Londoners in 1922. Most are gainfully unemployed, drinking, dancing, and dining with the help of allowances, alimony, or inheritances. Some manage on borrowed lucre. "The Scientist" of the group does kidney research--measuring his sweat output as he bicycles all the way to France (figuratively anyway). Almost all strive to be fashionable, poetic, witty, or artistic. Some also strive to be somebody else----maybe
Stephen Brooke
Mar 28, 2019 rated it liked it
This early Huxley has its moments, but “Antic Hay” sometimes feels as if its author decided to throw every interesting thought he ever had (most are interesting, anyway) into the novel. The result is sometimes amusing, sometimes thoughtful, but definitely unfocused and sometimes too wordy.

It is a book built more around an idea than a story or characters — something I normally dislike. The concept here seems to be people trying to be something other than what they are. Or think they are — where
Tom Brennan
For me this was one of those books (like Midnight's Children) where if I knew more history, I would get much more out of reading it. Huxley meant it as a portrait of the times (1922) in which he lived, and how people had changed as a result of World War I. While there were humorous moments, the general tone of the book (to me) was sombre, poignant and reflective. If Huxley had determined (by the time he wrote Brave New World), that what we love will kill us, Antic Hay shows just how difficult it ...more
Troy Wilkinson
Sep 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Quite a quriky novel. Antic Hay seems as odd a book as the realities of each character Huxley creates in it.

Why not as upfront in its message about life as Brave New World, Antic Hay does an excellent job of depicting youthful idealism and the tragedy of trying to live up to those ideals.

Filled with a cast of 1920s oddballs, this book is one that slaps you with the underlying foolishness of the intellectualism that parades around your mind with pompous words.

Antic Hay was fun, thought-provoking,
John Millard
Nov 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Took a while to read so it seemed to drag a bit. This was amusing and a bit similar to Crome Yellow in it's making fun of conventions of social niceties which are often rooted in ridiculous efforts of older folk trying to keep youth from enjoying themselves. It is interesting to see that such silliness of ego and romantic fantasy and foibles existed in the early part of the last century as they did in my youth of the 1980's. Fun book but dated in parts. I imagine it would be more enjoyable if I ...more
Feb 18, 2019 rated it liked it
This was touted as a books about a young man who gives up a conventional life for that of a free-wheeling bachelor, man-about-town. But it was more like a young man who wants to do that, but instead tries to make a fortune on a useless invention and chooses to spend time with a wealthy older woman, rather than pursuing a woman he really fancies. I like the idea of “The Complete Man,” but our friend Gumbril never fully embodies him. It’s like he can’t fully commit to any area of his life.
Monty Milne
Mar 20, 2019 rated it liked it
This is witty and enjoyable and is a flavourful period piece but I am not sure how illuminating it really is, and I do not think it is as good as Crome Yellow. The problem is that some of it is just a bit too boring: there is hardly anything to get one’s teeth into as regards plot or characterisation, just a lot of quite clever and intermittently amusing dialogue. Two and a half stars.
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Reading 1001: Antic Hay- Aldous Huxley 2 6 Sep 29, 2019 10:58AM  

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Aldous Leonard Huxley was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley family. He spent the latter part of his life in the United States, living in Los Angeles from 1937 until his death in 1963. Best known for his novels and wide-ranging output of essays, he also published short stories, poetry, travel writing, and film stories and scripts. Through his novels and ...more
“Perhaps it's good for one to suffer. Can an artist do anything if he's happy? Would he ever want to do anything? What is art, after all, but a protest against the horrible inclemency of life?” 66 likes
“...‘I am interested in everything,’ interrupted Gumbril Junior.
‘Which comes to the same thing,’ said his father parenthetically, ‘as being interested in nothing.”
More quotes…