Thursday, September 12, 2013

SEPTEMBER 2013 BOOKERS MINUTES & MUSINGS, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

                                 "O wonder!
        “How many goodly creatures are there here!
      How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world”

              William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Happy 10th Birthday Bookers

Happy 110th Birthday Crayola

It all began September 14, 2004. Bookers met at the home of MN Stanky. Our first selection was a classic, Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns. 25 avid readers returned not only to the site, but to where our quest began – to solidify with each other our mutual love of the written word – to learn, grow, and discover what lies deep inside the covers of a book and within us. Amongst birthday balloons, cake, and mimosas (we told you it was a celebration!) we each chose a crayon (what does your choice of color reveal about yourself?) and we raised our glasses in a toast to Bookers and to Crayola (and silently to those who celebrate Patriot Day, etc...on September 11th)

“We can learn a great deal from crayons. Some are sharp; some are pretty; some are dull; some have weird names. All are different colors, but, they all have to live in the same box.”

Then, Pat Faherty hijacked our well-planned out agenda, and on behalf of all the co-conspirators, showered MN and I with a wonderful poem, red roses, cards, and presents. What a wonderfully unnecessary treat…but, Oh my we both do love presents. Our Dreams Come True garden art is poignant and timely on so many levels. In the words of Little Bee, “a bee flew in from the sea, touched down on a pale flower, flew off without any fuss, but left the flower beautiful.” You’ve pollinated our lives with your support and enthusiasm. You all are our “bees.” Thank you! buzzzzzzzzzzz…………..

Our gang has officially read 88 books. Additionally, we’ve studied happiness and the Amish, ‘typed’ our personalities, and enjoyed a classic played out on stage. We dressed in character and created rooms from books, traveled the world, and discovered the depths within each other. A Holocaust survivor accounting the horrors of her detention silenced us as she softy spoke of her ordeal, void of malice and laced with hope. Stories from our own World War II veterans flooded us with patriotism. We munched and imbibed our way through our annual evening meetings, sharing books, triumphs, joys, and heartaches. We’ve oooo’d and aaaaah’d, cried both inside and out, passed the tissues, and sometimes belly laughed (only to again pass the tissues)… we’ve discussed and maybe mildly cussed. MN and I are grateful for the opportunity to be part of this amazing group of women for the past nine years and here’s to the start of a new decade.

Advances in science and technology since the 1930’s have enabled us to move from coal oil lamps to electricity, horse-drawn buggies to the automobile, battery-powered radios to high definition televisions, rotary phones to smart phones, and because of our understanding of the atom, we see success stories such as Google, Twitter, and Facebook. What’s next on the horizon? Stem cell therapies and genetic engineering procedures replacing damaged and aging organs; nanorobotics installed in countertop replicator machines providing household necessities such as food, medicine, clothing, and appliances; tiny nanorobots swimming through our bodies, inspecting cells and making repairs to faulty DNA, eliminating nearly every disease; non-biological body parts could be developed – immune to disease, accidents, and violence – but should a fatal disaster occur, mind and memories could be transferred to a new “housing unit” allowing life to continue – patients would wake up in their new body not even realizing they had died; and by 2150 there will be more humans living in space than on earth. Talk about another “new world”…Rest assured there’s another Huxley in the wings ready to take us on this journey!

Brave New World

Aldous Huxley, raised in a family of scientists, writers, and teachers, was an intellectual who had mastered the use of the English language but also knew about cutting-edge developments in science and other fields. Most of his earlier works focused on conflicts between the interests of individuals and society, these themes reaching their zenith in Brave New World where he combined satire with his fascination with science creating a world in which a totalitarian government controlled society by use of science and technology. He was an ardent pacifist, experimented with hallucinogenic drugs, was interested in occult phenomena such as hypnotism and séances, and wrote several books about these experiences making a profound impact on the sixties counterculture. The Doors of Perception influenced singer Jim Morrison whose band, The Doors, was named. Huxley died on November 22, 1963.

Penny Barshop, our reviewer for Brave New World, captured the attention of our “elder AP English class” as she deftly walked us through the nuances of this 1932 classic – somehow fitting a two-hour review into thirty minutes. Bravo Penny!! The author, considered a prophetic genius and one of the most important literary voices of the twentieth century, used the blueprint of Shakespeare’s The Tempest  to create this satirical look at a utopian (idyllic) or dystopian (utopia gone bad) world. The society was prosperous and full of contented people always provided for and programmed to like their life in all aspects.

The setting is future Earth, 632 years after “Ford” (Henry that is) where the citizens of the World State are mass produced on an assembly line and conditioned for lives in a rigid caste system featuring the Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons, all united under one government, ‘under Ford.’ Huxley opens the book by allowing us to eavesdrop on a tour of the Fertilizing Room of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, where the high-tech reproduction takes place, rigidly controlled through technological and medical interventions. An authoritarian system sterilizes two-thirds of the women, requires the rest to use contraceptives, and surgically removes ovaries when needed to produce new ‘humans.’ The act of sex is controlled by a system of social rewards for promiscuity and lack of commitment. Individuals, or ‘production products,’ view happiness as the ability to satisfy needs, and success as a society equates with economic growth and prosperity. They do everything possible to avoid facing truth about their own situations. Willful self-delusion produced by use of their happy pill, Soma, is a tool for promoting social stability. They believe they are better off with happiness or instant gratification than with human truths such as love, friendship, and personal connection. The very will to search for these truths are deadly to a communal society that maintains control by making its citizens so happy and specifically fulfilled they don’t care about their personal freedoms. In Brave New World the consequences of state control are loss of dignity, morals, values, and emotions – in short, where humanity becomes a commodity.

Huxley’s cast of main characters includes a mix of an Alpha male, Bernard Marx, who fails to fit in because of his small physical stature and an Alpha lecturer in the College of Emotional Engineering, Helmholtz Watson, a perfect caste fit, except he longs to use his writing abilities for something more meaningful. The Resident World Controller of Western Europe, Mustapha Mond, whose name means world, was a young ambitious scientist forced to choose between his science and a life of exile because he was caught conducting illicit research. And, John, the savage, the consummate outsider and only major character to have grown up outside the World State, raised on a New Mexico Savage Reservation – his entire worldview based on his knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays. By providing traits of a few individuals who don’t entirely fit into the molded world, Huxley explores the alternatives to his invented society’s promotion of mindless satisfaction with the help of John and Shakespeare and he reveals some disturbing secrets underneath the bright, shiny façade of his contrived society. What can possibly be wrong with a world in which everybody is happy? If we can make ourselves superficially content and never have to suffer a moment of desperation or uncertainty, why not just do that? Should we favor perpetual happiness void of art, deep thought, and emotion? Are attempts to find deeper meaning silly and self-defeating, as we will all meet the same fate in the end?

This book is a classic, but why?  Every generation for the past eighty years since the book’s publication has witnessed oppression by a government or at the hands of a controller. This book makes us think about our technology-driven world. Are we losing our individual identities to the lure of a faceless world? High school students are still reading Brave New World. What kind of an impact does John’s guilt driven suicide to close the book send to our young adults? It seems to tie a sex and drug culture to loss of identity. In the animal kingdom the caste system flourishes – everyone has a job to do – they all work together for a common good – so is that all bad? For us, living in a brave new world without freedom of choice would be an oxymoron. No thanks!


Bookers business:

Bonnie Magee reported Judy Lee appreciates all the cards and support she is receiving. She is making progress every day and we wish her a speedy recovery from her injuries.

Shayne Parkinson, author of Sentence of Marriage, left this comment on “What a wonderful setting you created with your photographs and memorabilia. And what insightful and thoughtful comments. Thank you so much for discussing Sentence of Marriage.”

East Texas Book Exchange, 408 North Prairieville, Athens (two blocks north of the Courthouse) is open for business, Monday-Saturday, 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM. Bruce and Mary Jo Gallager buy and trade books and this establishment is reportedly “the most organized book store on the planet.”

Sandy Molander announced bridge lessons will begin the first Thursday in October at the Bridge Studio in Gun Barrel. Cost is $55.00, which includes the book. For those who’ve never played bridge, there are two free sessions the last two Thursdays in September. Direct any questions to Sandy.

Movie night at Mike & Patsy Dehn’s house on Friday, September 13th featuring “42” the Jackie Robinson story. Everyone is welcome. The movie will begin around 8:00 PM.

The garage sale is approaching and we are begging for boutique clothes and jewelry. Contact Jean Alexander if you can help.

Summer reading recap

It’s been requested that MN and I “rate” the books we’ve read to provide a clearer assessment of what WE think of them. Disclaimer: These opinions are our own and do not reflect the view of our book club as a whole – how’s that for following the letter of the law. HA! We’ll incorporate the following guidelines:

5 Stars:                  Order Now. Expedited shipping worthy. Include in your will.

4 Stars:                  Borders on Little Bee

3 Stars:                  Beach Read

2 Stars:                  Borrow don’t buy

1 Star:                   Put your money back in the piggy bank

MN: read all Gillian Flynn books, Gone Girl,(4) Dark Places & Sharp Objects;(3+) Defending Jacob by William Landay,(4); Treading Waters series by Marie Force (3) The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman,(4) Spitfire Puffin Cove1by Carla Doolin (2) Me Before You by JoJo Moyes (4) Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts (3) This summer’s Gone Girl, The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison,(3+) The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (5); The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (4+)

JoDee: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Anthony Marra (4);  Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, (2); The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult…I tried three times and just couldn’t get beyond the first one hundred pages…not sure why – no rating. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes, (4+) One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus (2) And, of course our ta da novel…I loved Harold! (5)

                                                            What’s New

Kathleen Kent, author of The Outcasts will be appearing Tuesday, September 24th at Barnes & Noble, Lincoln Park, Dallas 7 PM – 7700 West Northwest Highway (southwest corner of Northwest Highway and I-75 – directly across from NorthPark Mall – book available that day. 214-739-1124 It's the 19th century on the Gulf Coast, a time of opportunity and lawlessness. After escaping the Texas brothel where she'd been a virtual prisoner, Lucinda Carter heads for Middle Bayou to meet her lover, who has a plan to make them both rich, chasing rumors of a pirate's buried treasure.

Making noise on the NY Times Bestsellers list – readers can’t get enough of series books, romance, crime, and erotica. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowlings) is a crime mystery. 50 Shades fans will enjoy Complete Me, the last in the erotica trilogy series, preceded by Claim Me and Release Me or The Highway by C.J. Box a series full of gore and language. You can’t argue with success. Finding a book that will sell is the goal of the publisher.  But it’s also why we search “beyond the lists” for a quality read for Bookers!

Coming in the fall is Pat Conroy’s latest, a non-fiction, The Death of Santini, a story of a father and a son. John Grisham will be releasing Sycamore Row returning us to the Clanton, Mississippi courthouse, and Jake Brigance, 25 years after the release of A Time to Kill. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, has written a novel, The Signature of All Things, about a globe-trotting family set in 18th * 19th centuries.

Movies on horizon – Fault in Our Stars is filming. Willem Dafoe is cast as Peter Van Houton. Angelina Jolie is directing Unbroken.




RED:              CHALLENGING


*October 15th:            Note: LATER date because of the Garage Sale

The Misremembered Man by Christina McKenna


                                    Home of Bonnie Magee, co-hosted by Leslie Mullins

                                    Reviewer: Barbara Creech

November 12th:           The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout


                                    Home of Daryl Daniels

                                    Reviewer: Pat Faherty

December 10th:            Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger


                                    Home of Jean Alexander

                                    Reviewer: TBA

                                    Food Czar Bonnie Magee will coordinate light fare & champagne

January 14, 2014         The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey


                                    Home of Beverly Dossett

                                    Reviewer: Melanie Prebis

February 11th:              The Fault In Our Stars by John Green


                                    Home of Patty Evans

                                    Reviewer: Patty Evans

March 11th:                  The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce


                                    Home of Marlene Ungarean

                                    Reviewer: Jean McSpadden

April 8th:                      Book TBA

                                    Home of Sandy Molander

May 13th:                     Book TBA – regular meeting 10:00 AM

                                    Home of Charlotte Pechacek 

“Words can be like X-rays, if you use them properly – they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.”

Happy Reading,


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