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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Erewhon by Samuel Butler

Samuel Butler, author of Erewhon

Book Review
by Samuel Butler
p. 1872

  Wrapping up the 19th century portion of 1001 Books To Read Before You Die means doing some clean up duty, but luckily I was able to hit Powell's books and pick up several hard to find titles.  Erewhon was in that category but rather then hold out for Powell's I bought the "Dover Thrift Edition."

 "Nothing Says "Minor Classic" Like a Dover Thrift Edition.  It's fair to say that a budget line of print books is threatened dramatically by the Ereader, because... who wants to buy a cheap book when you can buy a cheaper Ebook?  And yet... they persist.  It's hard to carp about someone trying to bring classics to the masses for cheap, but the resulting product mirrors the "Thrift Edition" description: BUDGET.

 Erewhon is in the category of Utopian fiction, common comparisons include Gulliver's Travels and News From Nowhere by William Morris. Like other Utopian novels, you get two parts: journey to Utopia and then lengthy discussions involving the strange ways and beliefs of the Utopians.  Here, the residents of Erewhon hate all machines and attribute moral characteristics to physical ill health.  Thus, being infected with a disease like measles or mumps results in a death sentence.  At the same time what we would call "crimes" are treated the way we treat physical illness. It's like a reversal.

 Thus, Butler's Erewhon is somewhere in between a Utopia and a Dystopia, and I'm pretty sure I missed a lot of what he was criticizing/satirizing.

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