Reading a book by Aldous Huxley is like being entertained by a host who is determined that one should not suffer a moment's boredom and works perhaps a bit too hard to ensure one's continual amusement. The fruit of his considerable erudition is lavished on his readers in flattering profusion: quotations from literature, references to art, history and science—if one takes the allusion, it is with a pleasant sense of sharing the author's culture, and if not one is privileged to learn a new fact or to hear an unusual and provocative point of view. For this reason Mr. Huxley is an ideal novelist for young men: remarkably intelligent, genuinely sophisticated, he takes for granted these enviable qualities in his readers. His first three novels, Crome Yellow, Antic Hay and Those Barren Leaves, and the stories, essays and poems of that period, represent a perfect form of undergraduate literature: elegant, informed, irreverent, ironic, as it seems amoral yet serious, they appeared at a time—the early 1920's—when the scene was set for brilliant young men and when to be a brilliant young man was the most rewarding thing to be…. Mr. Huxley could not forever maintain a position of gay and destructive criticism; a constructive remedy had to be proposed and the entertainer had to make room for the teacher. In his later novels, the feast of diversion spread before his readers is no less rich than before, but it has become slightly indigestible.
Point Counter Point, which was first published in 1928, brings his earlier manner to a point of culmination and contains the germ of his later development. Formidably long, it introduces a host of representative characters (several of whom are clearly derived from real people) and sets them talking at each other. A complexity of design resulting from the large dramatis personae gives the novel's construction a superficial resemblance to that of Gide's Les Faux-Monnayeurs, which had appeared three years earlier; but neither Point Counter Point nor Eyeless in Gaza, in which Mr. Huxley later exploited a confusing time sequence, can lay claim to technical innovations. Mr. Huxley has never been an experimental writer; he...
(The entire section is 907 words.)