Top positive review
Britain in the late '20s, with a dash of bitters
on January 1, 2004
Aldous Huxley's reputation as a writer of fiction rests on
three works: _Antic Hay_, _Brave New World_, and _Point
Counter Point_. In this book, the most ambitious and
successful of the three, he examines in detail the ideas
and personalities of the British intelligentsia of the late
twenties. Their politics, their sexuality, their world
view, their love of life, and their fear of death are
ruthlessly dissected for our delectation. Huxley
accomplishes this by developing various themes with one
group of characters and then reintroducing them with
another group, whose members view similar developments from
a different perspective. Situations, ideas, and figures of
speech recur in altered form throughout the novel.
Oftentimes, he accomplishes this effect with a great deal
of gentleness and subtlety.
Two brothers-in-law, Walter Bidlake and Philip Quarles, are
clearly projections of Huxley at different ages. They
interact with each other and the other members of the large
cast of characters. A third, diabolical character, Maurice
Spandrell, is more or less Huxley's Jungian shadow. D.H.
Lawrence is projected into the story as Mark Rampion, and
John Middleton Murry appears as Denis Burlap. We are
allowed inside the minds of these five men, letting us see
the events of the story from many points of view. For that
matter, we are allowed inside the minds of all the
characters. In particular, we are allowed inside the mind
of the frighteningly seductive femme fatale, Lucy
Tantamount, who is a projection of Nancy Cunard.
Communists and Fascists, apolitical seekers of wholeness,
God-seekers, and bored aesthetes offer their views on the
events and ideas of the time and on each other. Sometimes
these oppositions escalate into violence. The crippling
effects of poverty on the poor are contrasted with the
pathetic efforts of their economic betters to come to terms
with their personal demons.
The young rich characters have for the most part dispensed
with God and busy themselves searching for a good time. But
the doddering rich, the elderly quietists, the weepy
inepts, the smarmy bullies, the shameless exploiters, and
the sinister diabolists continue the quest. The elderly
quietists come off best.
The lusts of the flesh fail as miserably as religion.
Philip Quarles and his wife cannot communicate. Spandrell
humiliates his conquests, but is ultimately bored with
them. Lucy Tantamount is also chronically unfulfilled.
Rampion's vision of wholeness and marital fulfillment
serves more to highlight the deficiencies of the other
characters than to inspire emulation. The elderly members
of the cast no longer possess the life force necessary to
seduce, and such efforts as they make end in disaster.
Burlap, the truly successful seducer of the novel, is so
disgusting that he will make your skin crawl.
The novel is like a machine with a thousand moving parts.
It delights, it captivates, it amuses and horrifies. It
sparkles with Huxley's intelligence and wit. It is
sufficiently vicious in spots to gratify one's intellectual
bloodlust. I enjoyed it.