CROME YELLOW by Aldous Huxley

by JF

This was Huxley’s first novel, published in 1921, and it is the third Huxley novel this reader has read. It is better than Island, Huxley’s final novel, but it is of course nowhere even remotely as good as Huxley’s masterpiece, Brave New World.

The setting is a gentrified English country house, post-WWI, whereupon a bunch of well-to-do Brits have gathered for a weeks-long party, and I am to understand that this setting is an old formula for the basis of a novel in British literature. The novel mildly satirizes the fads and fashions of the time among the idle rich of England; nothing really ever happens in the novel, though there is some occasionally witty dialogue. Thankfully, this dialogue is more realistic than much of Huxley’s later work, not suffering as much from Huxley’s penchant for encumbering his characters with longwinded philosophical speeches.

This was written was Huxley was still quite young. It would qualify as a “coming-of-age” novel, especially as pertains to its protagonist, Dennis. But again, NOTHING really happens in the plot.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this novel is the literary-historical foreshadowing, that is, the several instances where the characters’ dialogue briefly touches upon some of the ideas Huxley was later to write about in detail in Brave New World.

This reader has heard it said that Aldous Huxley’s ability to write good fiction was hampered by the fact that he was so well read; that he knew so much about classical literature and philosophy, as well as other fields, that somehow this overabundance of knowledge somehow kept him from developing his passionate side or some such thing, which all novelists need to effectually tap into in order to write about human relationships with any verisimilitude. This reader isn’t really buying that. No, instead, what this reader sees in the fiction of Aldous Huxley, and as well from having read about Aldous Huxley’s life, is a man who never really experienced life as most people know it; that Aldous Huxley was born into an affluent class, and he never left that class and the level of comfort that goes with it, not for any short period at all in his life, and thus, he never experienced what most of the rest of humanity has had to experience in their lives. THIS is what this reader finds to be the obvious limitation on Aldous Huxley’s fiction writing. A writer has to live life, to experience things, in order to be able to effectively write about what life is like. One cannot simply make things up in one’s head and have it sound believable–not for most forms of fiction. Probably the only exception to that would be science fiction. Thus, it is little wonder that a futuristic, dystopian novel like Brave New World would have been Huxley’s best effort. It is indeed a wonder that Huxley didn’t write more science fiction.

Rating: Δ Δ