Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ira Levin

The writer Ira Levin just died. While not a prolific writer, he was influential. His novel Rosemary's Baby started a national fascination with the occult that lasted more than a decade. The Stepford Wives triggered protests by feminists that anyone would suggest that some men might be dissatisfied with Woman's Lib. The Boys From Brazil was the first that many people heard about cloning.

All of these were fairly light novels - quick reads. They almost read like movie adaptations.

In my opinion, his best novel was one of his more obscure ones - This Perfect Day.

This is a dysfunctional Utopian novel, something like Brave New World but with a background closer to 1984. It features a world from the John Lenin song Imagine. There is only one country and it is run by dispassionate computers. The population has been cross-bred until there is a single race of people with brown skin, black hair, and brown eyes. Everyone dresses alike, eats the same thing, and even has a similar life expectancy. Religion has been condensed into a single belief with four prophets. The title comes from the chant, "Christ, Marx, Wood, and Wei led us to this perfect day."

Like Brave New World, this world is not kind to outsiders. In this case, it is the few people with recessive genes. Having green eyes or pale hair or large breasts makes you an outcast.

It is a cautionary take on what the world would be like if political correctness took over completely.

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