Celebrated author and science fiction legend Aldous Huxley, best known for his dystopian novel Brave New World, once lived on North Kings Road near Melrose Avenue. His home was a magnet for friends engaged in early experiments with psychedelics, and the same group delved into parapsychology and probed mysteries associated with the paranormal.
Allene Symons, author of a new nonfiction book called Aldous Huxley’s Hands (Prometheus Books/Penguin Random House), has a family connection to Huxley’s story through her father. She will reconstruct this period of Huxley’s life in a free talk with digital slide show called “Aldous Huxley Slept Here: His Quest for Perception and the Origins and Return of Psychedelics.”
The event will take place Wednesday, October 12, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. in the community room of the West Hollywood Library, located at 625 North San Vicente Boulevard. The event is free;, no reservations required. Three hours of free parking are available in the library garage with validation from library. Enter off San Vicente and turn right into Municipal parking Structure 3.
The book will be available for purchase that night, as well as at Chevalier’s Books, and through other retailers.
Huxley’s friends with such interests in common included author Christopher Isherwood and Dr. Humphry Osmond, the psychiatrist who gave Huxley the peyote cactus-derivative called mescaline. A later dialogue between Aldous Huxley and Dr. Humphry Osmond led to coining the term ‘psychedelic.’ Huxley’s mescaline experience that day on North Kings Road inspired him to write a bestselling book called The Doors of Perception, which would influence altered-state advocate Timothy Leary and later inspire a band to name itself The Doors.
The story behind Aldous Huxley’s Hands dates back to Symons’s childhood, when her father and mother were friends of Aldous and his first wife, Maria, and attended weekly salons at their home. A dozen years ago the story came to light when Symons found long-forgotten boxes in her parents’ garage. They contained letters and memorabilia from Aldous and Maria, along with life-sized, black-and-white prints of 1,000 pairs of hands. One photograph was of the hands of Aldous Huxley, who, it turned out, had a longstanding fascination with hands and the secrets they might reveal.
Other name-indexed prints included the hands of members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as groups of twins, psychics, stutterers, and schizophrenic patients at two southern California mental hospitals. The contents of the boxes sparked Symons’s desire to get to the bottom of the story she had stumbled upon. Until then she’d had no idea that her father was a regular at the Tuesday night sessions on North Kings Road, or that Huxley had a fascination not only with psychedelics but also with hands and parapsychology—just three of the facets of Aldous Huxley that Symons will share in her illustrated talk October 12.
About the Author
Symons is a former senior editor for Publishers Weekly magazine in New York. After moving back to California, she worked for a media company located on Larchmont Boulevard. Aldous Huxley’s Hands is her third book.
West Hollywood Library
625 North San Vicente Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Tel: (310) 652-5340
*Three hours of free parking in library garage with validation from library. Enter off San Vicente and turn right into Municipal parking Structure 3.