This is a very interesting book. Written in 1936 Wells sets out discussing and reviewing a 12 volume work entitled "The Anatomy of Frustration" by William Burroughs Steele. An American with a background unsurprisingly similar to Wells' own. As far as I've been able to determine Steele did not exist but was a literary device employed by Wells to get across some of his more shocking ideas and to poke fun at himself and his way of analyzing things. It all came across as very post-modern in it's criticism of a thing that did not exist, including quotes and biography. It was very similar to House of Leaves, except being an essay on modern life, instead of a horror story. Steele's anatomy was a parody of Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, and Wells made some interesting comparisons between the two, and how they illustrate the differences between the centuries.
There were some interesting subjects covered in this book. Things I'd not heard Wells discuss before. There were some very interesting discussions on suicide, and the pros and cons and what sort of thing drives a person to it. He talked about internal accidents where one day you go out without your philosophy and everything hits you.
"There are such things as insupportable times when the thought of going on to the end is unendurable torture. Against such mischances no one is absolutely secure, and such a suicide should not be counted too heavily against the previous faith and way of living of a generally resolute man. The best one can do is to train oneself to keep one's courage, to wear the habitual practice of courage like a private amulet.
Live on to the end through the bitterness you dread, and you may find it not so bitter, and as for death itself you may be sure of one thing, which is that your consciousness will never arrive at death but only at a dissolution into the unconscious. There is no awareness of one's own death. Your death never happens in your consciousness. You have gone. It happens to the people about you." (56-57)
He also passingly mentions homosexuality, and not as in the sex but how normally (but not always) people fall in love with members of the opposite sex.
He also goes on about the inadequacy of the ten commandments as a source of morality. Quoting Steele as saying that "These stone tablets, relics of the Stone Age, are "about as much good as a nursery rhyme or any other folk-lore fossil" (77). It was quite interesting to see what he considered to be the moral dilemmas of the day. Including "Is a voter right to consider his private interests at a polling booth" (79) Is there a voter today who doesn't? And, "is a life spent mainly in sport better or worse than one spent in scientific research?" (79).
But it is the poking fun at himself that I enjoyed the most about this book. The self mocking and never quite knowing where Wells was really coming from, while trying to explain his deepest thoughts on an intimate subject.
My favourite jibes included "Assuming his favourite role of the well informed Biologist" (107)
There are also just some great quotes ending his chapter on war he states, "The terrible hero-warrior of old-world imagination becomes a dangerous and dirty sadist with a gas mask on his face and poison in his fist" (135).
"we catch him at his old trick of making highly controversial statements as though they were obvious truths" (153).
"aspiring out of this these comes another hypertrophied footnote, another of those headlong copious, inspiring and inadequate summaries which are so characteristic of the frustrated encyclopaedist in Steele (144).
And at the end "In his last letter Steele was telling himself to stick it" (273).
There are some very interesting discussions here that Wells seems to be having with himself. Trying to keep himself going and trying to find some optimism in a very depressing (or frustrating) world. I found it all intriguing and thoroughly enjoyable. It also got me thinking again about many different issues and if there is indeed any hope for mankind. I wouldn't say it was philosophy, for while there is a great deal looking at the nature of man and society, it is always from a practical and scientific point of view rather than from an abstract one. Wells can never stop trying to find a solution to the problems that plague mankind, which is why even at his most pessimistic he's still great....Continua