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William Burcher — "This is serious business"

Author. Traveler. Contemplative. Colorado raised. Seeker of beauty, of truth, and a great beer.

"Vain and Shifty-Eyed" …

Island - Aldous Huxley

Ok. 2.5 stars. Nothing more. Nothing less. I confess, I didn't finish it. I had high hopes for this book (out of respect for his previous—Brave New World is still in my thoughts regularly). But after getting through the ridiculously cliché characterization of the "Rani," I had to put it down. This came immediately after a scene in which the villain of the story, the future "Raja," is introduced—as a stereotypical, slight, pretty, vain and shifty-eyed homosexual. In a book clearly making an attempt at enlightenment, this seemed almost a child's joke.


Admittedly, the story has scenes and elements that are nothing short of brilliant. There are clever talking birds on the island, trained to repeat spiritual mantras, perpetually calling the human inhabitants to "Attention!" Another, in which a little girl helps the main character, Will Farnaby, to "release" and lessen the trauma of a physical fall, is compelling, beautiful and completely original. The rest of the story, however, is a cliché—though I will be generous enough to say that perhaps the book (published in 1962) was a progenitor of such paradigms: There exists a perfect island paradise. This island paradise is threatened by the exploitative designs of a greedy militarist and his effeminate, homosexual puppet-monarch who want to (wait for it) tap the island's extensive OIL reserves for their own gains.


Huxley endeavored to bring Eastern philosophy to a Western audience at a time when few authors were doing so, but the hidden jewels, buried in a heap of a story that just isn't very good, can't quite make this book worthy of the effort required to read it.