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On vacation from school, Denis goes to stay at Crome, an English country house inhabitated by several of Huxley’s most outlandish characters–from Mr. Barbecue-Smith, who writes 1,500 publishable words an hour by “getting in touch” with his “subconscious,” to Henry Wimbush, who is obsessed with writing the definitive HISTORY OF CROME. Denis’s stay proves to be a disaster amid his weak attempts to attract the girl of his dreams and the ridicule he endures regarding his plan to write a novel about love and art. Aldous Huxley’s first novel, Crome Yellow, was published in 1921, and, as a comedy of manners and ideas, its relatively realistic setting and format may come as a surprise to fans of his later works such as Point Counter Point and Brave New World. Some who know only Brave New World may not know that as a 16-year-old planning to enter medicine, Aldous Huxley was stricken by a serious eye disease which left him temporarily blind, and which derailed what certainly would have been a prominent career as a physician or scientist. Crome Yellow has often been called “witty,” as well as “talky,” and it certainly owes as much to Vanity Fair as it may, surprisingly to some, owe to Tristram Shandy, although one might think that characters such as Mr. Barbecue-Smith and his remarkable writing theories could have some literary antecedents in Lawrence Sterne. Lambasting the post-Victorian standards of morality, CROME YELLOW is a witty masterpiece that, in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s words, “is too irnonic to be called satire and too scornful to be called irony.”
Along this particular stretch of line no express had ever passed. All the trains—the few that there were—stopped at all the stations. Denis knew the names of those stations by heart. Bole, Tritton, Spavin Delawarr, Knipswich for Timpany, West Bowlby, and, finally, Camlet–on–the–Water. Camlet was where he always got out, leaving the train to creep indolently onward, goodness only knew whither, into the green heart of England.
They were snorting out of West Bowlby now. It was the next station, thank Heaven. Denis took his chattels off the rack and piled them neatly in the corner opposite his own. A futile proceeding. But one must have something to do. When he had finished, he sank back into his seat and closed his eyes. It was extremely hot.
Oh, this journey! It was two hours cut clean out of his life; two hours in which he might have done so much, so much—written the perfect poem, for example, or read the one illuminating book. Instead of which—his gorge rose at the smell of the dusty cushions against which he was leaning.