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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Antic Hay (1923) by Aldous Huxley

Book Review
Antic Hay (1923)
by Aldous Huxley

  Antic Hay is like an English equivalent of a "Lost Generation" novel: over educated, under worked young people complaining about the meaningless-ness of life.  Fortunately, like Crome Yellow, Antic Hay is a satire of this culture, not a celebration.  In theory, Antic Hay is about Theodore Gumbril, son of an architect and erstwhile school teacher, who, at the beginning of the book, ups and leaves his stable job to develop his invention, a pair of "pneumatic pants" that contain an inflatable cushion to make sitting down on hard surfaces comfortable.

 Also like Crome Yellow, Antic Hay has little or no plot: Gumbril takes some meeting, chases some skirts and hangs out in the greater London area with other arty friends.  No one gets married, pregnant or loses an inheritance. Antic Hay successfully parodies the shallow/deep culture of 20s intellectuals- after the First World War exposed their transcendentalist/universalist ideas for being neither universal or transcendental, but before Existentialism gave intellectuals a mid twentieth century rallying call.  Gumbril and his ilk are bored, and excited about nothing at all.

For those more familiar with late 20th/early 21st century "Hipster" culture, Antic Hay will strike a resonant chord, and is worth a read for precisely that reason.

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