Do you subscribe to The Writer’s Almanac? It’s a wonderful free e-newsletter (although contributions are certainly welcome) from those amazing people at NPR. Each morning you’ll find a poem and all sorts of interesting reading/writing related information in your Inbox. You can even choose an audio version, which allows you to hear Garrison Keillor reading the day’s poem.
I read The Writer’s Almanac each morning and nearly always find engaging information. I sometimes paste copies of the day’s poem or articles in my notebook. They remind me I’m not alone—and they make me think more critically and creatively about the world around me. Listed below you’ll find an abbreviated excerpt from a recent edition of The Writer’s Almanac. It features a comment by the culture critic Neil Postman that feels particularly timely—especially for writers:
The English author Aldous Huxley was born July 26, 1894 in Godalming, Surrey. Huxley wrote a few of novels that satirized English literary society, and these established him as a writer. It was his fifth book, Brave New World (1932), which arose out of his distrust of 20th century politics and technology, for which he is most remembered. Huxley started out intending to write a parody of H.G. Wells’ utopian novel Men Like Gods (1923). He ended by envisioning a future where society functions like one of Henry Ford’s assembly lines: a mass-produced culture in which people are fed a steady diet of bland amusements and take an antidepressant called Soma to keep themselves from feeling anything negative.
It’s natural to compare Brave New World with George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1948), since they each offer a view of a dystopian future. Cultural critic Neil Postman spelled out the difference in his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death:
“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture. … In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.”
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