ningerbil (ningerbil) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Books 5 and 6

5. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. This fulfills the requirement in the 2016 Book Riot challenge for dystopian novel. This is a singularly unsettling and bizarre read. Some parts of it -- such as turning Henry Ford into a sort of deity -- may come across as odd and even a bit dated. Ford today is a chapter or two in a history book, but when the book was written he was still a larger-than-life presence. Parts of the book read like a movie script, especially the first few chapters. That adds to Brave New World's disquieting narrative. Huxley writes about a futuristic world, where humanity is grown in decanters and, depending on the chemical mix and constant conditioning, are born to be anywhere from the top-ranking Alphas to the primitive Epsilons. While there are individuals who don't quite fit in (Bernard Marx, one of the main characters, to name one), society generally ticks along pleasantly in an endless cycle of preassigned work, movies, music, sex, perfumes, consumerism and soma (a drug used to quiet feelings of unease). Things change for Marx, and to a degree, for society, when he visits a Savage reservation and brings back two people from there- a woman who had lived in the "utopia" but got separated during a visit on the reservation, and her son. The second part of the book largely concerns the son, John, who finds difficulty fitting into either the world of the Savage reservation, or the tightly controlled, conditioned and drugged city. There is a lengthy conversation between John (who is also called the Savage) and Mustapha Mond, the resident World Controller, that will elicit chills; the parallels between this fictional world and the real world of today are strongest here.

6. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, by Oliver Sacks. I've been wanting to read this one for a while, and it did not disappoint. Sacks had a wonderful, warm narrative style as he tells the fascinating stories of his various patients. Some of the more fascinating include the gentleman depicted in the title. He really did, right before Sacks, mistake his wife's head for a hat. He had a curious and (seemingly progressive) neurological disorder that did a couple of things. One, he "blanked out" anything on his left side, and two, he could not identify faces (unless they had a striking feature) or even common items. For example, Sacks gave this man a glove and asked him what it was and what it was used for. The gentleman made many observations about the glove but could not name what it was or what it was used for. Another story that stands out is about identical twins who were severely mentally challenged - they could not actually do even rudimentary math. But they could "see" numbers, come up with prime numbers at 6, 7, 8 numerals and even beyond. There's also a story about two women who suddenly could hear music. This went beyond mere earworm and was so loud at times they could not hear someone talking to them. A small stroke was responsible for one case; I don't recall what the issue was with the other, but it, too cleared up. The stories here (and in his other book Musicophilia) bring to light just how much can go wrong with the human brain, and in so many bizarre ways. Really, it's a miracle things go right as often as they do, with everything that could go awry.

Currently reading: Helter Skelter, by by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry.
Tags: classic, fiction, futuristic, non-fiction

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