Bicycle Diaries: <i>Crome Yellow</i>

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Crome Yellow

A bicycle! Denis repeated.
A green machine, cross-framed,
name of Stone. S-T-O-N-E.

My recent Gentleman Cyclist Tour up in WI/MN reminds me of Crome Yellow, Aldous Huxley's first novel. Published in 1921, it satirizes the fads and fashions of the time, including bike touring. The witty plot revolves around a house party at Crome, a country estate. The bright young things are invited for the weekend by its owner, Henry Wimbush, the self-appointed historian who obsessively pontificates on its strange history. Among his guests is Denis Stone, the novel's hero.
He always took his bicycle when he went into the country. It was part of the theory of exercise. One day one would get up at six o'clock and pedal away to Kenilworth, or Stratford-on-Avon--anywhere. And within a radius of twenty miles there were always Norman churches and Tudor mansions to be seen in the course of an afternoon's excursion. Somehow they never did get seen, but all the same it was nice to feel that the bicycle was there, and that one fine morning one really might get up at six.

Once at the top of the long hill which led up from Camlet station, he felt his spirits mounting. The world, he found, was good. The far-away blue hills, the harvests whitening on the slopes of the ridge along which his road led him, the treeless sky-lines that changed as he moved--yes, they were all good. He was overcome by the beauty of those deeply embayed combes, scooped in the flanks of the ridge beneath him.

Curves, curves: he repeated the word slowly, trying as he did so to find some term in which to give expression to his appreciation. Curves-- no, that was inadequate. He made a gesture with his hand, as though to scoop the achieved expression out of the air, and almost fell off his bicycle. What was the word to describe the curves of those little valleys? They were as fine as the lines of a human body, they were informed with the subtlety of art...
Another guest, Mr. Barbecue-Smith, writes 1,500 publishable words an hour by getting in touch with his subconscious. By the end, apocalypse is prophesied, virginity lost, and inspirational aphorisms gained in a trance. After reading Crome Yellow, F. Scott Fitzgerald commented, it is too irnonic to be called satire and too scornful to be called irony.

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Blogger Tom said...

Thanks for the interesting stuff. Didn't know Huxley wrote this book (many things I don't know)! Thanks especially for the link to the online books!


24/5/07 07:24  

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