Deep into his biography of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson asks to see what’s on Mr. Job’s iPad. The follow paragraph results:
More revealingly, there was just one book that he downloaded: The Autobiography of a Yogi, the guide to meditation and spirituality that he had first read as a teenager, then reread in India, and had read once a year ever since.
Let’s call this annual idea of a reread: one’s anchor book. And since it is a habit common to both Jobs and I (in the last week of December, for twelve consecutive years, I sat down to Brave New World) surely it must be common to others. I suspect anchor books exist because they hitch us to workable interpretations of our universe. Functioning as drogues they hold us steady in the shifting ocean of time. As such they are life preservers. This idea of preservation cuts both ways. Choose your anchor book carelessly, and you are an etherized insect permanently pinned to parchment. I like to think that Jobs and I, growing up a mile away from each other, have both chosen our anchors well.
But unlike Jobs I drifted; I have not read Brave New World for a decade. The Isaacson quote was a reminder and a spur. We are past the ides of December, tomorrow is the shortest day of the year, and once again I am deep into Brave New World.
The nice thing about a long absence is the mind sees the text anew. In my brave new revival there’s a depth that wouldn’t exist if I’d continued the annual reread. For example, the passage below that ends this post, struck me as profoundly visionary. Eighty years ago Huxley completely captured the Kim Kardashian model that relentlessly flogs our culture. It’s an incredibly stunning feat.
As an extra bonus I grabbed enough of the quote so that you get a taste of another contemporary situation Huxley foresaw: The 1% in charge of everything; the 99% happy to have jobs running the elites’s beautiful whores up and down elevators…
The lift was crowded with men from the Alpha Changing Rooms, and Lenina’s entry was greeted by many friendly nods and smiles. She was a popular girl and, at one time or another, had spent a night with almost all of them.
They were dear boys, she thought, as she returned their salutations. Charming boys! Still, she did wish that George Edzel’s ears weren’t quite so big (perhaps he’d been given just a spot too much parathyroid at Metre 328?). And looking at Benito Hoover, she couldn’t help remembering that he was really too hairy when he took his clothes off.
Turning, with eyes a little saddened by the recollection, of Benito’s curly blackness, she saw in a corner the small thin body, the melancholy face of Bernard Marx.
“Bernard!” she stepped up to him. “I was looking for you.” Her voice rang clear above the hum of the mounting lift. The others looked round curiously. “I wanted to talk to you about our New Mexico plan.” Out of the tail of her eye she could see Benito Hoover gaping with astonishment. The gape annoyed her. “Surprised I shouldn’t be begging to go with him again!” she said to herself. Then aloud, and more warmly than ever, “I’d simply love to come with you for a week in July,” she went on. (Anyhow, she was publicly proving her unfaithfulness to Henry. Fanny ought to be pleased, even though it was Bernard.) “That is,” Lenina gave him her most deliciously significant smile, “if you still want to have me.”
Bernard’s pale face flushed. “What on earth for?” she wondered, astonished, but at the same time touched by this strange tribute to her power.
“Hadn’t we better talk about it somewhere else?” he stammered, looking horribly uncomfortable.
“As though I’d been saying something shocking,” thought Lenina. “He couldn’t look more upset if I’d made a dirty joke–asked him who his mother was, or something like that.”
“I mean, with all these people about …” He was choked with confusion.
Lenina’s laugh was frank and wholly unmalicious. “How funny you are!” she said; and she quite genuinely did think him funny. “You’ll give me at least a week’s warning, won’t you,” she went on in another tone. “I suppose we take the Blue Pacific Rocket? Does it start from the Charing-T Tower? Or is it from Hampstead?”
Before Bernard could answer, the lift came to a standstill.
“Roof!” called a creaking voice.
The liftman was a small simian creature, dressed in the black tunic of an Epsilon-Minus Semi-Moron.