Books I’ve Read: Brave New World Revisited

I first read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley as a junior in high school. I was the only person in my class who absolutely loved it. I thought everything about it was fascinating. This was a world where everything we had ever learned to be taboo was completely acceptable and even encouraged– sex, drugs, designer babies, and mass discrimination, all under governmental control. I was floored. And I was extremely disappointed when we had to write a paper on Lord of the Flies instead. Yes, yes, the conch is a symbol of innocence and when it breaks, it signifies that their innocence has been lost. Groundbreaking.

I did enjoy reading the latter novel, but something about Huxley’s dystopia has stuck with me all these years. Occasionally, I’ll read an article about a scientific breakthrough or global leadership and see a scene from Brave New World in my mind. Talk about doing your job well.

But this isn’t about the original story, it’s about the author’s reflections decades later on if and how any parts of his creation are coming true. I saw it in a bookstore, Brave New World Revisited, and just had to buy it. After sitting on my shelf for a couple years, I’ve finally gotten through it. And once again, I am floored.

In Revisited, Huxley talks a great deal about dictatorships, propaganda, and controlling the population, themes that were laid on heavy in his novel. With these reflections, he has now seen the Great Depression, the rise and fall of Hitler and Mussolini as well as other dictators, and two World Wars; a second “police action” in full swing and civil unrest over Vietnam; and culture changing drastically with the Civil Rights Movement, the rise of “hippie culture” (in this case meaning drugs), and tremendous technological and medical advances– including birth control. Many parts of this landscape are the same factors that lead to the disturbing society of Brave New World.

This short but very heavy read is frighteningly relevant even today. More than anything, his analysis of how dictators (though really anyone in power or who would like to be) utilize media and language to gain, inspire, and mobilize followers against a perceived enemy makes me look at the current socio-political climate of the United States and shudder. Something written five decades ago with Adolf Hitler as the poster child for population manipulation should not be a reflection of current events, but as it stands in my eyes, this is the case.

I enjoyed reading how the author perceived his vision to be right or wrong, and the ways he worked in various philosophical and scientific ideas to support his analyses. More than anything, I was intrigued and a little scared at how science fiction of the past is slowly morphing into our present and future. There are definitely times where I wish we would consider the fiction of yesterday a warning against tomorrow. But alas, we do not seem to make the connection.

Would I recommend this book? On its own, likely not. But if you start with the novel, the essay is brilliant.



Books I’ve Read: 13 Reasons Why

I have a habit of adding books to my reading list and only getting around to them when someone decides to turn them into movies and tv shows. This is no exception. I heard about 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher months ago on another WordPress blog (I would link, but I can’t for the life of me remember what blog it was!) and immediately added it to my growing list, then never picked up a copy. Fast forward to the future, and I finally got my hands on the book now that Netflix has made an original series out of it.

I have not watched the series. I wasn’t going to start until I finished the book. But I don’t know if I want to watch it now. I don’t think the series will be able to compete with the power of this book.

Synopsis: High school student Hannah Baker committed suicide. Before she did, she recorded 13 stories on tape and sent them posthumously to 13 people explaining how their words and/or actions contributed to her decision. Clay Jensen is on those tapes, but he has no idea why. And so he spends the night listening to this story to which he only knows the end, following the path that leads to it.

This story is dark. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. If you’ve ever been bullied, heard rumors, or really even gone to high school, this story might sound familiar. And that’s why it’s so powerful. Everything in it is real, plausible, believable, because these things have happened to us, or to someone we know, or we’ve read a news story or heard someone speak on the issues in this book. And while this story is set in high school, it could have happened in college, or at work, or across several settings. It’s relatable. And it hurts.

I will provide a trigger warning. If you have been bullied, or sexually assaulted or harassed, or are suicidal or know someone who is or has killed themselves, this book might not be for you. But it could be a good tool for reaching out to people, for helping them understand your struggle or the struggle of others, and just how impactful words and actions can be, long after the fleeting moments in which they occur.

Would I recommend this book? I cried and wanted to stop reading because it broke my heart, but I had to find out what was on those tapes. So yes, I think you should read it.

Bookworms Unite!

My Private Stock: Small But Tasty (Oh, and I have granola bars on the bottom shelf, just in case)

My name is Caelie Orlosky, and I am a bookworm. I was one of the kids who wouldn’t sleep at night because I couldn’t stop turning the pages of the latest novel I had picked up. I’ve perfected the art of walking and reading at the same time (sometimes I even throw in some gum-chewing). Flashlights and paper cuts are a normal part of my life.

Unfortunately, my species has ended up on the endangered species list, right under the Zulia Toad Headed Sideneck and the Palanda Rocket Frog. Obviously, the list is not in alphabetical order…

Movies and television shows have threatened the source of our brain food, the now rare good book, leaving us with few alternative meal options. Magazines and newspapers provide a small amount of sustenance, and blog posts are a nice snack, but novels are what we crave. And the underwhelming number of readers has frightened off many potential producers.

I do believe there is hope, however. Walking to the bank the other day, I ran into a fellow bookworm, still in the juvenile stages. Actually, I didn’t run into him because, like all good bibliophiles, he had developed his walking-and-reading skills. But I did take notice of him, a ten-year-old boy catering to his appetite with a nice hard-cover novel. I felt a little like a pedophile, since I turned and gazed after him for a moment with a goofy grin on my face. But I SWEAR it was only because I was so surprised and happy to see a younger child reading a real book. If we could create a younger generation of bookworms, then I wouldn’t be compelled to act like such a creep, though my intentions are completely innocent. Seeing people, aside from myself, reading while out for a walk wouldn’t be such an anomaly.

So this is a call to arms to all the other bookworms out there who don’t want to see our numbers dwindle further in future generations. Somehow, we have to keep our species alive and thriving. I’m not sure how, but we need to find a way to breed the next generation of bibliophiles. Perhaps the next time a child — a niece, nephew, son, daughter, etc.– asks to go see a book-based movie, promise to take them only if they read the book first. Offering a reward is a rather dirty trick, but just maybe it could ignite the spark that will lead to a lifetime of reading, and a reemergence of the bookworm species.