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This Month’s Book Club: Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’

In an attempt to prove that musicians aren’t just products of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, SPIN.com has gathered together an eclectic group of literary-minded musicians to participate in our monthly online book club. Each month, a different artist will select a book that has impacted his/her music career and our club will read and discuss. We bring you the highlights. CURATED BY EMILY ZEMLER

This Month’s Selection:
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, 1998
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Selected by:
Stephen Christian, vocalist for Anberlin

Reason for Selection:
“The mass amount of medication and entertainment that the Western culture has cultivated to avoid pain and hurt it reminds me a lot of ‘soma’ in the book. Other relatable topics like a consumer society, a lust for technology, the incompatibility of happiness and truth, and the dangers of an all powerful state, are all located within the walls of this book. Not to mention the fact that Huxley is a master of the English language and I’m naming my first born anything after him.”

Discussion highlights:

Brave New World made me question the very base of happiness. Huxley took some of the most valuable pleasures (i.e.: sex) and gave an easy way out, should one find oneself (somehow) to feel adverse emotions (drugs). He made it seem that those things were all one ever wanted. After all, you would get as much sex with whomever you wanted all the time and never feel any emotional pain or rejection because of it. All the pleasure from leisure time is automatically prepared for you. Never have to think. Always retain your happiness. For the most part, I could see myself desiring this alternative lifestyle and Huxley was very convincing. But the picture perfect world shattered as soon as he inserted Shakespeare and there, for me, the back bone fell. No one can live without the passion and emotion brought about by TRUE art. No genius, no government can reproduce those sensations. It doesn’t matter how many somas you give them or how many years you hypnotize them in their sleep. And to be able to produce this kind of art one must be able to live the way we do, with all the folly, and destruction, and chance. I’d rather put up with our world, even if I have to work really REALLY hard to sleep with somebody in this one, and read Shakespeare with my glass of wine at the end of the night.” – Meg Frampton, Meg & Dia

“I read Brave New World some seven years ago, and more recently, read Huxley’s pseudoscientific journals on his LSD experimentations in which he attempted to be both lab rat and scientist. I recall select little of either, other than a fleeting sense of enjoyment. Flirting with a bit of our own soma — the government’s reverse psychology strands, where bans keep supply low enough for demand to always exceed. And obviously, dystopias capture the imaginations of those of us who are suspicious we are already living in one, or at least that we are veering eerily in that direction. I’m [interested in] parallels between my world and the Brave New one.” – Shawn Harris, The Matches

“The first time I read this book, many years ago, I didn’t enjoy it. Too sci-fi. The second time I read this book, I realized a dozen pages in that I had never, ever read this book before. Damn good read. About midway through the book I started to seriously consider the equivalence of soma and White Russians. By the end of my read (maybe echoing Shawn’s sentiment) I’m less likely to consider Brave New World a dystopian novel than a work of futurism.” — Dessa Darling

“It seems that Brave New World is always linked with George Orwell’s 1984 as twin dystopian novels. I remember one summer I had to read them both for an English class. And it seems that 1984 is so often referenced by the farsighted or paranoid as the likely, or imminent, course of society gone awry. But I feel like Brave New World is so much more likely — constant entertainment and distraction to the point of giving up our own rights. In this way, Huxley’s insight into human nature and modern society is as sharp as Orwell’s political commentary.” – Dan Koch, Sherwood

“I never read the books I was assigned in high school. I’ve been making my rounds every since scratching them off my list. Brave New World was required reading in eighth grade, I think, so I was glad to find out it was the next novel for the Book Club. The theme of ignorance being blissful is something I often question for myself. It certainly does simplify everything. Not that my life is all that taxing… the fact is everyone has impediments they’d rather not deal with (certainly some more grave than others). I guess what I’m getting at is that sometimes a Soma holiday sounds like the perfect prescription.” – Isaac Lekach, Acute

“If the Brave New World was a holiday destination, I’d probably visit it on the regular. I never read the book in high school. I can’t remember if it was assigned to me or not, but I enjoyed the read while it forced me to juxtapose our world with the Brave New World. We are living in a dystopia — a dystopia being a failed utopia. Shit. I think humans have interest in dystopian themed artwork because we like to see what occurs to a society when humans decide to play God and implement their ‘ideals’ upon a civilization. I would hope we all agree that humans can’t possibly know what’s correct for this world or any world. I am amused in watching these societies fail. In my opinion, the best art is born from the storm or from within the storm. You can’t laugh without crying.” – Drew Roulette, Dredg

Next month’s selection:
Wanna read the next book along with the SPIN.com book club? Pick up Oliver Sacks’ An Anthropologist On Mars (BUY FROM AMAZON), selected by solo artist Dessa Darling of Doomtree Records, and then check back here next month to see what the musicians thought and voice your own opinions!

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