Wednesday, February 01, 2006

"Cynthia" by Aldous Huxley

A goddess meets her god--or so the ugly, lovestruck "god" thinks. Here's one of those tales which might be told by Oxford graduates as they pass the decanter and thumb through Zuleika Dobson once again for inspiration. Read by Sebastian Stuart. Time 13:50.

The anthology this story comes from is so old it doesn't even mention Huxley's most notorious novel, Brave New World, which hadn't even been published yet. The author and satirist, one of the famous English Huxley family of scientists and artists, was only about 25, a recent college graduate (Balliol at Oxford) himself, when he included this story in his 1920 collection, Limbo. Soon after he would add Leda, Mortal Coils, and Antic Hay to his shelf at the booskhops. It was a long way from there to the swamis and Hollywood and the wild LSD trips that helped inspire a generation of rock stars and hippies until his final injection on the same day that both C. S. Lewis and John F. Kennedy died.

Fresh from several ghostwriting stints, Sebastian Stuart will soon be adding another book to the shelf that holds his thriller The Mentor. It's a comic novel he co-wrote called 24 Karat Kids, and it's already been blurbed by Woody Allen. He has spent much time recently doing scholarly research, as well as writing comic skits for hire, and he will be seen in a forthcoming documentary about his grandfather, the renowned anthropologist Branislaw Malinowski.

9 comments:

Marc said...

I don't know why, but I was a bit unnerved by this story.
I do relate to the wild hopes for love; I myself am a desperate romantic.

Scoot said...

Well, it's hard to say--is this story romantic or cynical? Whatever, we liked it and we're glad you liked it, too. Thanks for listening.

Damon LaBarbera said...

Those early Huxley short stories are very funny. Giaconda Smile is hilarious as is The Claxtons. Brave New World was, in literary terms, somewhat of a dud--more of a way of presenting his ideas than anything interesting in the literary sense. But those early stories were a scream--he has the unusual ability to perfectly capture the absurd pretentions of his peers.

Damon LaBarbera

Scoot said...

We remember reading "Giaconda Smile," we think, long ago, and will have to go back and look at it. And we reread Brave New World not long ago and found it not quite as thrilling as when we read it at thirteen; in fact, it's downright clunky prose, and the plot is absurd in not a good way. Glad to see someone else might agree. So we'll have to give poor old Mr. Huxley yet another try, but in the shorter form.

Thanks for your insightful and interesting comments, Damon, and happy to know you were listening! Now, if only we'd told our reader how to pronounce a few of those difficult Greek names before he began...

Damon LaBarbera said...

Thanks. I suppose you can look at Brave New World as the didactic Huxley--the Matthew Arnold side of the family coming through. There was always this need to educate and improve humankind--wonderful trait, but the fiction suffered in the process.

Scoot said...

We agree completely, that fiction tends to suffer when its purpose becomes to educate. Nothing wrong with education or learning something new from a story, but "art for art's sake" and all that. Or is it "art for heart's ache"?

Damon LaBarbera said...

Nabokov is very funny on the subject of didactic fiction and political fiction.

Damon LaBarbera

Scoot said...

Yes, he is! And he's our very favorite author. We'll have to go back and reread "Strong Opinions." Thanks again for the comments.

wilhelm said...

I didn't understand the story, guess my knowledge of different deities is limited. Would anyone want to help me with an interpretation?
-W