This Friday marks the 56th anniversary of the death of Aldous Huxley.
Midmorning on that day as a fifth grader, I sensed something amiss. Miss McCue’s eyes were red, and she sniffled as we hunched over our worksheets, but for whatever reason, she decided not to tell us that author of Point Counterpoint had checked out of this Motel 6 of woe for superior lodgings in that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns.
I guess she figured the news would bewilder us or that it would be better coming from our parents.
I found out on the school bus from a sixth grader, Steve Ripley, who seemed delighted at the prospect of Huxley’s not producing any more novels that might be assigned as book reports.
I, on the other hand, was devastated by Huxley’s passing because his novel Brave New World had given me reason to hope that the 21st century was going to be a blast – an endless hallucinogenic phantasmagoria that included indiscriminate sex with a variety of partners.
What a miserable weekend with football games cancelled and regular programming preempted. What’s an early late empire tween to do but stare at the short bio on his dog-eared copy of Chrome Yellow and think Huxley was alive when the book was bought.
Sandwiched between the passing of eminent composer Cecil Forsyth on 7 December 1941 and American author Alice Stewart Trillin on 11 September 2001, Huxley’s death was especially eerie given that a very famous someone also expired on that day.
That’s right. CS Lewis also died on 22 November 1963, a day that will live in infamy.
But let’s end on a positive note. Those fifty years have come and gone, and many of Huxley’s prophecies have come true – we live in a hedonistic age to the tune of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes.” As days pour at increasingly swift rates through our lives’ hourglasses, what can we do but embrace Richard Wilbur’s sage advice:
It’s almost noon, you say? If so,
Time flies, and I need not rehearse
The rosebuds-theme of centuries of verse.
If you must go,
Wait for a while, then slip downstairs
And bring us up some chilled white wine,
And some blue cheese, and crackers, and some fine
“A Late Aubade”