Island, by Aldous Huxley

An essay disguised as a novel, full of heavy-handed exposition about the author’s concrete spirituality: hypnotism, psychedelics, Eastern religion, sex, death, eugenics. The way the protagonist often lingered over the breasts of pubescent girls made me squirm. Yet at its heart, brilliance and wisdom. ★★★★☆

Wolfish world

Reading Moby Dick, which is funnier than I expected, and came across this evocative passage in Chapter X.

As I sat there in that now lonely room; the fire burning low, in that mild stage when, after its first intensity has warmed the air, it then only glows to be looked at; the evening shades and phantoms gathering round the casements, and peering in upon us silent, solitary twain; the storm booming without in solemn swells; I began to be sensible of strange feelings. I felt a melting in me. No more my splintered heart and maddened hand were turned against the wolfish world. This soothing savage had redeemed it. There he sat, his very indifference speaking a nature in which there lurked no civilized hypocrisies and bland deceits. Wild he was; a very sight of sights to see; yet I began to feel myself mysteriously drawn towards him. And those same things that would have repelled most others, they were the very magnets that thus drew me. I’ll try a pagan friend, thought I, since Christian kindness has proved but hollow courtesy.

The “wolfish world”, how apt! I feel like I could use such a pagan friend right now to show me the secret of contentment in a country grown strange and menacing.

1984

I’m rereading 1984 by George Orwell for the first time since high school. So far, it’s even better than I remember. That’s probably because, like so many other things, I have more experiences to draw on now. Already I see echoes of the “mutability of the past” in the current US administration’s adversarial relationship to the facts.

seveneves by Neal Stephenson

I just finished seveneves by Neal Stephenson, the first work of fiction I’ve read in quite a while. It was fun riding along with the author as he geeked out about orbital mechanics, robotics, and generic engineering in a story about the death of civilization and the interplay of the human will to survive and our imperative to compete. What’s not to like about a novel whose overture is the disintegration of the Moon?