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Friday, November 07, 2014

The Apes of God (1930) by Wyndham Lewis

Wyndham Lewis, author of The Apes of God.

Book Review
The Apes of God (1930)
by Wyndham Lewis
Black Sparrow Press Edition, 1981
639 Pages

 If you are looking for a 600 page satire on the English Artist class in the 1920s, The Apes of God by Wyndham Lewis is for you.  Most of the characters are based on real people, artists and socialites.  The story, such as it is, concerns young Daniel Boleyn, a would-be artist, and his mentor, the mischievous albino Horace Zagreus.  Zagreus promises to guide him through the world of the Apes of God, who are basically wealthy dilettantes who think themselves artsy.  There isn't much difference between Lewis' Apes and the "Hipsters" of today, both are stereotypes with some truth in them.

 It's hard not to read Apes of God as being anything other than homophobic, Lewis' obsession with the relationship between homosexuality and his Apes of God is impossible to ignore if you know, actually read the book. His depiction of homosexuality is not flattering, and again, it kinda reads as being super homophobic.  That's my guess why this particular volume doesn't appear on many college Modern Literature classes- it's certainly not a theme that he explores in his earlier work, and I was left wondering how the afterword in the Black Sparrow Press edition barely mentions it.  Maybe because the afterword was written in 1981, when it was totally ok to be a homophobe.

 I'm not normally one to get wound up by non-PC artistic themes, the combination of the extreme length, lack of incident, prevalence of dialogue and general incomprehensibility, it is hard to get over.


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