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In this dazzling conjunction of subject and author, the great English novelist Aldous Huxley, the wholly civilized man, is brought wholly alive in a magnificent full-scale biography by the brilliant English novelist Sybille Bedford, an intimate friend of the Huxleys through four decades. With a pointillistic richness of moment, place, and talk, she re-creates not only the In this dazzling conjunction of subject and author, the great English novelist Aldous Huxley, the wholly civilized man, is brought wholly alive in a magnificent full-scale biography by the brilliant English novelist Sybille Bedford, an intimate friend of the Huxleys through four decades. With a pointillistic richness of moment, place, and talk, she re-creates not only the private Huxley and the literary Huxley but the entire intellectual and social era to which he was central. Despite the almost total loss of his sight at age sixteen, Huxley became a titan and cultural hero of the decades after World War I, on terms with the outstanding writers and artists of his day, from D. H. Lawrence to Stravinksy and Auden. He had two separate and large careers as Crome Yellow and Point Counter Point, flag-bearer of England s Bright Young People through the 1920s, and romancer of glittering women; and later, in America, as the increasingly philosophical and utopian thinker, and a pioneering explorer of the frontiers of the human mind. Drawing on his letters and diaries, the memories of his intimates, and her own sharp and sensitive comprehension of Huxley s writings, Mrs. Bedford has written a masterful biography. "Her novelist s eye," writes V. S. Pritchett, "brings the writer to life. Huxley becomes a living, deeply attractive presence, while his great contemporaries flash through these pages in memorable and moving encounters. Mrs. Bedford s biography stands as the major work on a major figure in the literary and intellectual history of the twentieth century."


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In this dazzling conjunction of subject and author, the great English novelist Aldous Huxley, the wholly civilized man, is brought wholly alive in a magnificent full-scale biography by the brilliant English novelist Sybille Bedford, an intimate friend of the Huxleys through four decades. With a pointillistic richness of moment, place, and talk, she re-creates not only the In this dazzling conjunction of subject and author, the great English novelist Aldous Huxley, the wholly civilized man, is brought wholly alive in a magnificent full-scale biography by the brilliant English novelist Sybille Bedford, an intimate friend of the Huxleys through four decades. With a pointillistic richness of moment, place, and talk, she re-creates not only the private Huxley and the literary Huxley but the entire intellectual and social era to which he was central. Despite the almost total loss of his sight at age sixteen, Huxley became a titan and cultural hero of the decades after World War I, on terms with the outstanding writers and artists of his day, from D. H. Lawrence to Stravinksy and Auden. He had two separate and large careers as Crome Yellow and Point Counter Point, flag-bearer of England s Bright Young People through the 1920s, and romancer of glittering women; and later, in America, as the increasingly philosophical and utopian thinker, and a pioneering explorer of the frontiers of the human mind. Drawing on his letters and diaries, the memories of his intimates, and her own sharp and sensitive comprehension of Huxley s writings, Mrs. Bedford has written a masterful biography. "Her novelist s eye," writes V. S. Pritchett, "brings the writer to life. Huxley becomes a living, deeply attractive presence, while his great contemporaries flash through these pages in memorable and moving encounters. Mrs. Bedford s biography stands as the major work on a major figure in the literary and intellectual history of the twentieth century."

30 review for Aldous Huxley: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lizzie

    I don’t know if this is the best or most objective bio of Huxley, since the author was a friend and doesn’t have much bad to say about him, but it was certainly interesting. He was an interesting guy. I’d read and loved Island and Brave New World, and knew he’d taken LSD. I hadn’t known he’d had such a hard childhood (he lost his mother and eyesight in the same year) or that he was interested in Dianetics, or was such a committed pacifist. It was time well spent.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Well I will personally dispense with reading the early part of this, simply because Woodcock's book covered it very well, and this is more a hagiography albeit by a personal friend. But already one thing I never knew, and I am sure most of you did not, either, is that Huxley's famous "grey flannel trousers" seen as "miraculous" beneath the expansion valve of the mescaline experience, were actually blue jeans. Just think how many more pairs of Levi's they could have sold! (yuk, yuk.) Were it not Well I will personally dispense with reading the early part of this, simply because Woodcock's book covered it very well, and this is more a hagiography albeit by a personal friend. But already one thing I never knew, and I am sure most of you did not, either, is that Huxley's famous "grey flannel trousers" seen as "miraculous" beneath the expansion valve of the mescaline experience, were actually blue jeans. Just think how many more pairs of Levi's they could have sold! (yuk, yuk.) Were it not for Mrs. Huxley's editorial primness, hoping to reach a more highbrow audience. Well it's just one of the fascinating trivia available in this version of the man's biography. But I'd put the emphasis here more on the trivia, as, unlike Woodcock, she focuses on the human being and his trials, than on the literature and the message. Not that they were few, nor un-noteworthy. Her insights as to the message of his book Island (a culmination of the better part of his life's work) is off a little, but perhaps only because she had no particular part to play in the psychedelic movement- which would have given the author a wider range of understanding, as well, for some of Huxley's conclusions regarding the proper social role of these substances. And yes, he was very annoyed with Tim Leary's "marketing schemes"- as in retrospect I am myself. Some things just aren't for everyone, and if such interesting and "out of self" experiences can be induced naturally in certain people, it might do them a world more good than tripping. (There's lots more I could say about that, but, I like keeping reviews to the point...)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dexter Boniface

    This is a tedious book that will probably only be enjoyed by diehard fans of Aldous Huxley. As other reviewers note, the book has a slow pace and bland style and Bedford’s writing is sometimes hard to follow. For those that are willing to overlook these significant shortcomings, the book does offer an exhaustive and intimate portrait of Aldous Huxley’s life and work. In terms of the writing style, Bedford’s biography has a ‘one thing after another’ quality that begins with Huxley’s birth and ends This is a tedious book that will probably only be enjoyed by diehard fans of Aldous Huxley. As other reviewers note, the book has a slow pace and bland style and Bedford’s writing is sometimes hard to follow. For those that are willing to overlook these significant shortcomings, the book does offer an exhaustive and intimate portrait of Aldous Huxley’s life and work. In terms of the writing style, Bedford’s biography has a ‘one thing after another’ quality that begins with Huxley’s birth and ends with his death. In other words, the book is devoid of a central theme, arc or interpretation of Huxley’s life that might help to carry the book from start to finish. The question of who Aldous Huxley was is answered, but only indirectly. Furthermore, Bedford’s writing is confusing since she relies on a patchwork of letters to construct her narrative. An added frustration (for me anyway) is that Bedford often quotes passages in their original French but rarely offers a translation (Huxley’s first wife, Maria, was from Belgium and she and Aldous often spoke to one another in French). In terms of the book’s content, readers will of course learn a lot about Huxley’s life and work: his charmed but tragic childhood; his peculiar marriage to Maria; his prolific writing habits (including insights into his entire cannon of work); his forays abroad and long stints in the French Mediterranean and Hollywood; the constant ups and downs of his health; the evolution of his ideas about war, pacificism, the environment, and spirituality; his experimentation with psychedelic drugs and hypnosis (among other esoteric pursuits).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sam Schulman

    It's hard to remain interested in Aldous Huxley through this long, respectful biography, but it must be read because - shyly revealed in the course of the telling - Sybille Bedford was a troubled teenager taken in by the Huxleys in the 30s - and she actually make the reader (or at least this reader) fall completely and actually in love with Laura Huxley as you read. It's a completely unique experience - perhaps unique to me - to have this experience with a real person (I certainly had it with Te It's hard to remain interested in Aldous Huxley through this long, respectful biography, but it must be read because - shyly revealed in the course of the telling - Sybille Bedford was a troubled teenager taken in by the Huxleys in the 30s - and she actually make the reader (or at least this reader) fall completely and actually in love with Laura Huxley as you read. It's a completely unique experience - perhaps unique to me - to have this experience with a real person (I certainly had it with Tess Darbyfield of Tess of the D'Urbervilles but that's different). Bedford wrote "A Legacy," which is another of the great fictional reconstructions of what it's like to be a German - so truthful-to-life that for a long time I thought it must have been a translation. But the fact is that Bedford can do things with prose that no one else can do.

  5. 4 out of 5

    katie

    Exhaustive. Not the most amazing writing style, but CERTAINLY packed full of info on Aldous and anyone he was close with. I enjoyed it to the very end. But then again, I am a die hard Huxley fan (read : loser). haha.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Big Huxley fan, so for me it was a must

  7. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    5* Jigsaw: An Unsentimental Education TR A Legacy TR Aldous Huxley: A Biography TR A Favourite of the Gods and a Compass Error

  8. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    I enjoyed the first half more than the second. There's lots of interesting trivia. The book is as much about Huxley's first wife Maria as it is with Huxley. The author had a long and close friendship with them. The narrative is often confusing when quoting from letters from various people, (mostly by Maria), Bedford dropping in brief passages of her own. When describing Huxley's final illness and taking LSD as he was dying, the author didn't explain or mention why Huxley took LSD as he was exiti I enjoyed the first half more than the second. There's lots of interesting trivia. The book is as much about Huxley's first wife Maria as it is with Huxley. The author had a long and close friendship with them. The narrative is often confusing when quoting from letters from various people, (mostly by Maria), Bedford dropping in brief passages of her own. When describing Huxley's final illness and taking LSD as he was dying, the author didn't explain or mention why Huxley took LSD as he was exiting this world. He thought the state of mind and being one is experiencing, i.e, higher spiritual state and at peace with no fear, determines the spiritual state one enters in the next life. The book is a wealth of interesting information and facts, but clearly needed an editor. Far too long and tedious in parts but a good description of the long life of one of the great minds of the twentieth century. A mind that seemed to know no bounds of interest or subject.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andy Rendell

    I found this to be a mixture of a contemporaneous detailed diary, and a form of personal loving memorial to Aldous and Maria Huxley. The degree of fly-on - the wall daily detail about domestic life is revealing,and charming in small doses but tends to exces overall. I did not glean much about the thought going into the works, as the book concentrates more on the functional detail of their being written and published. The book struck me as an effectionate personal tribute to life- long friends by a I found this to be a mixture of a contemporaneous detailed diary, and a form of personal loving memorial to Aldous and Maria Huxley. The degree of fly-on - the wall daily detail about domestic life is revealing,and charming in small doses but tends to exces overall. I did not glean much about the thought going into the works, as the book concentrates more on the functional detail of their being written and published. The book struck me as an effectionate personal tribute to life- long friends by a younger person almost adopted by the Huxleys, and there is a wealth of backround bonus material on people such as DH Lawrence, but it was too long because the method of working sequentially through the diary overcame critical focus.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Frater

    I am really interested in the life of Huxley. However I did not like the style of this biography.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Prakash mackay

  12. 4 out of 5

    Carly

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  14. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  15. 5 out of 5

    CoffeeSiren TeaGoddess BookLover

  16. 5 out of 5

    Susanm

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nigel Rodgers

  18. 5 out of 5

    Graham Elvis

  19. 4 out of 5

    Martin Korte

  20. 5 out of 5

    James Henderson

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mel

  23. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rene

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jay

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nina Nougat

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alethea Hammer

  28. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Guthridge

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia Weaver

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie

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