Point Counter Point
Zeitgeist, Antic Hay, à clef
Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Ellis’ [Edith Mary Pargeter] ‘Peters Biography to Portrait of Dora (Portrait de Dora)
a novel by A. Huxley, published in 1928. Generally viewed as Huxley's fictional masterpiece, for its masterly interplay of discussions about the Zeitgeist and a sophisticated structural technique, it became a contemporary bestseller and remains the best example of the discussion-novel-of-ideas which he appropriated as an ideal satiric vehicle. Like Antic Hay, though on a larger scale, the book is filled with artists, scientists, socialites, politicos, and literati, who represent and argue through problems and philosophies of the time. Continuing Huxley's penchant for writing à clef, the disputatious ‘Mark Rampion’ has many of the traits of D. H. Lawrence, and ‘Lucy Tantamount’ (‘Living modernly's living quickly’) of Nancy Cunard; John Middleton Murry appears unsympathetically as the magazine editor ‘Burlap’. ‘Everard Webley’, leader of the fascistic British Freemen, who pursues ‘Elinor Quarles’ and is eventually murdered, is clearly modelled on Oswald Mosley. The novel proceeds by what the writer ‘Philip Quarles’ (a stand-in for Huxley himself) calls a ‘musicalisation of fiction’: theme, variation, and counterpoint in which contrasting or complementary characters, singly or in combinations, dramatize a multiplicity of perspectives. This contrapuntal form operates by short scenes and often abrupt transitions between sets of characters, and incorporates extracts from Philip Quarles's Notebook which meditate upon fiction, biology, and motivations of personalities encountered.