HUXLEY IN HOLLYWOOD by David King Dunaway
Kirkus Star


Email this review


Life of the brilliant essayist-novelist whose The Doors of Perception ushered in the psychedelic revolution. Dunaway begins with Aldous Huxley in midlife, when he went to HollYwood in the late 30's to pick up some of the gold at the film factories. Huxley was the most famous British novelist of his generation and, at 40, had already published 26 books. A cynical misanthropist, Huxley was a member of the famous scientific family associated with Darwin and the great anthropological theories of the 19th century. Since his mother's death from cancer when he was 14, Huxley had wiped her from memory, a blacking out he was later to pierce under LSD. A skeletal 6'4"" and more than half-blind, he hit Hollywood at a time when the British cachet on a filmscript was much desired and also when the great influx of European literary ‚migr‚s had just taken place. He soon found himself in the company of Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht, Salka Viertel, Anita Loos and Christopher Isherwood, as well as Stravinsky, Garbo and Chaplin. Though married, Huxley was not a monogamist, and his wife Maria, an active lesbian, also arranged her husband's sexual affairs for him, helping him break off dying affairs and start fresh ones. Huxley's impact on Hollywood was not great, but his novel about William Randolph Hearst, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, was clearly the springboard for Citizen Kane. His struggles against blindness via eye exercises, his interest in parapsychology, meditation, and spiritual discovery through mescalin and LSD are spellbinding. Dunaway, biographer of Pete Seeger (How Can I Keep from Singing), does a more than thorough job on the Hollywood background. But it is the whiteheaded figure of Huxley, fighting illnesses (and cancer) and helping his wife die peacefully when she has cancer, that wins the reader wholly.

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 1989
Publisher: Harper & Row