I’d be honored to be treated to a disquisition on how your minds work, dear polymaths. What is the mechanism and result of association? I’m telling you that now because I’m inviting you into my labyrinth.
“Eyeless in Gaza”…the Milton, then the Huxley.
I was pretty sure I had read the novel, it’s just the kinda thing I WOULD have read ages ago when I so much wanted to be an”intellectual”…but here is a double mirror funhouse effect, okay so I summon Huxley’s novel on my Kindle, I begin reading, and I read the character’s take on Proust: a pale old man with pendulous mammries sprouting long black hairs, marinating in his own bath water, tasting it, scooping up the tepid viscous fluid and pouring it over himself again and again….! But let me tell you that to this day I never think of Proust without entertaining that image! And y’hafta admit it’s …funny? Apt? Given Proust’s own experience with eidetic memory.
This is how I know that, oh yes, I read “Eyeless in Gaza” as a teenager, probably pronouncing the name to myself as “Prowst”, not even knowing his oeuvre ( nor any French) at that point.
This reminds me of an awful experience I suffered at one of those conferences which independent schools organizations staged during that era, where you stayed at some resort along with a buncha fellow insufferable twits from other schools, and held forth on religion and philosophy. I didn’t know Tao was pronounced “dow”, how WOULD I, an adolescent autodidact? I never heard anybody say it aloud.
Lately I wrote elsewhere about another experience encountering adolescent me, involving a certain trinket I came across. That fat, moody, selfish, over-sensitive,: intellectual wannabe girl I was…at this late point in my life, I’m thinkin’ I wish I could meet her again, now that I know how “we” turned out.
Probably a lot of us – if today’s us could give advice to long-ago us – would tell our younger self to choose a different path. But we don’t know what would have been the consequences of taking that path less followed. We would not have suffered the disappointments & frustrations of the path we chose – but we would have undoubtedly suffered other disappointments & frustrations. As someone famous once said, No-one gets out alive.
But the fact that we are here to regret our pasts shows that those pasts can’t have been too bad after all!
I finished “Eyeless in Gaza”. I encountered several other ideas that I’ve heard me repeat over my lifetime. So I reckon I did finish the book back in my teenage years.
But what I’m wondering is why Huxley chose that title. The…I reckon “protagonist”, Anthony Beavis, is no strongman and he’s certainly no hero. I HATE that guy! What a squish, for his entire life as far as I can tell. And in ways that ruin, or end, other people’s lives.
At the very end, though, he is about to leave for a meeting, I reckon some kinda socialist thing, where he’s going to speak in favor of pacificism (in spite of what Germany’s getting up to; this is, like 1934) and he gets a threatening anonymous letter from some braw English patriots.
At this point I have to say the letter made me laugh, because another fave book of my teenage years was Kingsley Amis’ “Lucky Jim”, wherein the trickster hero pens a letter like that: “me and some of the boys will be down and it won’t be just to say how-do you can bet!” Maybe Amis was parodying Huxley.
Anyway, Anthony eats some laughably frugal supper (Amis again: “which, if shown on the stage to indicate squalor and penury, would be considered grossly overdone”) and is resolved to go anyway. And the novel ends there. So maybe that’s the Samson reference: he’s going defenseless among his enemies, who are certainly going to injure him, Maybe even kill him? But it doesn’t make sense if he’s referencing the Milton poem. Okay, Samson was disgraced and lost his strength and is blinded and taken into captivity…well, maybe that’s Anthony’s whole life to date, and this meeting, his temple -of-Baal moment, will actually be his finest hour? (That’s a low, low bar for this bozo).
If anybody read this, please share your impression of Huxley’s novel. And thanks for your kind attention.
Ordered the Kindle version, I’m not sure if I’ve read any of Huxley’s novels since high school (closer to the books writing than my high school days are to today). Thanks for bringing it up, we’ve got a 40 hour car trip coming up in a couple weeks, from the US north woods to the gulf sea waters
By Kingsley Amis? I hope my horizons can expand that much, ignoring technical stuff I’ve been reading mostly suspense/mystery/thriller novels for quite a few years. Although lately my wife’s been in a couple book clubs, here and FL, and she shares her Amazon books with me. It took me a while to figure out why books like “West with Giraffe’s: a Novel” (which I enjoyed reading, it’s about transporting two giraffe’s to California via ship and truck) were showing up in my Kindle library. Fortunately they weren’t ones I’d ordered and forgotten because of oldtimers