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Friday, February 23, 2024

Literary Lessons: Huxley’s Airplane

There are not a lot of issues on which I disagree with Kurt Cobain. Not that I have a lot of knowledge of his opinions on things; I like his music, and therefore I like to agree with him on everything. However, one point on which I must show my divergence is in his lyric, “I’m on a plane, I can’t complain.” When I am on a plane, there is a lot I can complain about.

I know that some people love to fly, but I am generally pretty stressed out during the whole experience. At the end, when the plane safely lands can I finally exhale.

For me, riding in an airplane is like reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. (Note: this article contains a spoiler, so if you were looking for a captivating reading experience and have not yet read the novel, please read the column next to mine instead. It really is a great book.).

The whole time you think about all these crazy, terrible things, your heart is thumping, and you’re just trying not to notice the disgusting state of your palms. Your mind is all, “Let’s think of everything terrible that can happen, shall we?” But then, a certain amount of hours later, you are safely to your destination, and everything turned out way better than your imagination might have had you believe.

The book starts in a really stressful way, just like takeoff. There are these guys doing eugenics and everything is really bad. It’s like when the plane is making all that noise and you’re just like, “No, this is not right. This is just not right,” and you start looking at the flight attendant to make sure they look calm.

And then as the book takes off there are all these alternative sexual things going on, which is like when you close your eyes and you lose your orientation and cannot keep them closed because it makes you nervous. Just thinking about this is making my hands gross.

I guess that’s the sign of a great novel — being able to make you sweat a little. In the same way you’re disturbed by children’s sexuality, the way that the captain says reassuring things from the flight deck makes you think uncomforting thoughts like, “This guy is drunk. Oh man, I’m on a plane with a drunken man.”

Brave New World does a good job of going through periods of calm, and then just scaring the jeepers out of you a page later. “Ladidida, everything goes so well, why was I so…” AND TURBULENCE. I can just see Aldous Huxley being all, “This seems like a nice time to make something great happen in this novel. But no, maybe not.” The flight, and the book, continue on like this for about 100 pages, which in plane time seems like, well, eternity because every time you look at your watch only fifteen seconds have passed.

The assuredly drunk captain then decides it is time to give you the one complimentary beverage. Great. When the flight attendant gets to you, you look pissed off and ask for Coke. It’s like when Huxley throws you a bone with some more obvious political commentary and he thinks you’re going to be all, “Wow, thanks man. This makes it all worth my hands being drenched in sweat. Awesome!” My response was more, “Go away. I want to be alone.”

Suddenly, the fasten seat belt sign comes on. Or, if you are reading Brave New World, you only have five pages left. “This is it.” Queue ’80s pump up jams.

As you slowly make your descent, you finally look out the window. You see pretty lights, and the skyline of your destination. Maybe you’re now in Paris or Tokyo or Chicago. Your whole vacation awaits you! Queue Tame Impala music! Everything is suddenly so relaxing and cathartic. As Brave New World ends, everything just works out. Although there are some casualties, it turns out a whole lot better than the prior 150 pages would have had you think.

From dystopia to happiest place on earth, making it through Brave New World is like taking a journey on a plane. It may not have been the best experience of your life, but it was a necessary step, and you made it.

To be nervous a mile up in the air with EREN KAVVAS you should email her at ebkavvas@ucdavis.edu.



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