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Antic Hay Paperback – 2 Sep 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (2 Sept. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099458187
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099458180
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 157,969 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Few present-day writers would dare to be so heroically encyclopaedic, such ardent gleaners of gossip and table talk as well as of the profounder reveries of literature, history, science and religion" (Spectator)

"The great uniting principles that swept mankind along in their current have lost their force, and Huxley's intellectuals find themselves in a maelstrom formed by the new forces of the time. For them, life has become boring, futile, full of ennui. So we get the 'Antic Hay', the dance of profane love, but with the wood-wild strains of Pan broken up into the hesitating rhythms demanded by the fever of modern life. Huxley has a fine sensibility and his wit and fresh vision lend Antic Hay a crystalline quality" (Guardian)

Book Description

'Huxley brings extraordinary vigour and gusto to every page he writes' Spectator

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4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Having read my way (more or less) backwards chronologically through Huxley's catalogue it is suprising to me to find the familiar mystical and philosophical underpinnings forming the foundations of this much earlier work. Although Antic Hay lacks the thunderous gravity of Huxley's later pieces, such as Brave New World and Island, his ability in creating an effervescent alchemy of delightfully intriguing, sophisticated and obsurd characters is outstanding enough in itself. The storylines are great and the dialogue between the characters is at times painfully well excecuted.
I laughed out loud on numerous occasions and also berated myself quitely for my own inabilities with other languages.
Excellent
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Format: Paperback
This book embodies emphatic evidence that there is more to Huxley's genius than "Brave New World". This story is much removed from his most popular work, but one soon becomes captivated by the eccentric characters of the book. Much of Huxley's vast vocabulary is here, but this proves no obstacle as the plot is so thoroughly entertaining.
You will put it down, because it's long, but you'll pick it up again soon enough. Easily amongst the best of 20th Century fiction.
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Format: Paperback
Having just finished reading Howard Jacobson's very disappointing, supposedly funny The Finkler Question, I picked up Antic Hay in a secondhand bookshop on holiday and found it a brilliant, highly humorous read. Perhaps the gulf in class between the two books, made Antic Hay - a satire that describes the hedonistic, directionless lives of a group of upperclass twits in 1920s London - shine out by comparison. The protagonist, Gumbril is a hopeless fellow who gives up teaching history to devote himself to making money, by means of developing "comfort" trousers with blow-up rubber tubes in the seat. In order to woo women he takes to wearing a stick-on beard, turning himself from Mild and Melancholy, as he sees himself, into The Complete Man, with a greatcoat and a floppy-rimmed hat. Meanwhile, Mrs Viveash is a feckless sort with an annual income and the ability to make almost every man she meets fall for her, including Gumbril, a comically untalented abstract artist (who rails against the world and seems to believe that success is a right, despite endless stinking reviews), and a doctor busy with mad Nazi-like experiments working in a strange lab at a hospital. They carouse about in taxis and drink too much, occasionally consorting with the working-class (usully to pay a fare or buy a bottle) and feeling totally disassociated with them. Although this short (250 page) book is a satire of the 1920s, it struck me - what with all the David Camerons, George Osbornes and the coterie of Etonites who seem to run things, and expect to run them, in Britain these days - that it's also pretty much of relevance now. There are aspects of the book that hint of the Brave New World to come, particularly the mad doctor. Huxley's breadth of language is extraordinary and the book is in places laugh out loud.
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Format: Paperback
A constant theme, or more rather, a constant method of writing that runs throughout Huxley's works is phrasing of the tragic in terms of satire. Here in Antic Hay, Huxley paints a picture of post war abandonment in London where artists and intellectuals are adrift with no certainty any longer. But, being Huxley he portrays this grim picture in terms of satire. The danger that Huxley knew all to well was that people would read his books and see only the satire and like him only as a satirical writer, and not see the deeper ideas and inner tragedy of his tales.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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 Latin, is advantageous when reading this book. As a reader lacking these skills I had to regularly pause to make online searches to clarify various references that would otherwise have gone over my head.

So, with no story, what are we left with? A clever, well written social satire very much of its time. The characters only exist to represent various archetypes (an artist, a poet, a promiscuous flapper, an innocent etc.) whose primary role is to exchange clever dialogue.

Throughout the novel Gumbril, the central character, struggles to reconcile the two sides of his personality: 'the Mild and Melancholy one', who exalts in nature, apprehends divinity in Mozart’s G minor Quintet, and believes in romantic love; versus 'the Complete Man', who subscribes to the death of God, scoffs at romantic ideals, and pursues dangerous liaisons. In post-WW1 London, Huxley only identifies one winner in that particular conflict.

It is a quick, easy read, and whilst I really enjoyed a few scenes, overall it was too incoherent, only sporadically entertaining, and sometimes downright annoying. I never got any clear sense of what Aldous Huxley wanted to say with this book.
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