Jacob’s Hands by Huxley & Isherwood

Jacob's Hands by Aldous Huxley and Christoper Isherwood

Something of a rarity this week: Jacob’s Hands. A collaboration between 20th century literary legends Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood – the novella was written for the big screen. It’s still to make it there.

For an unclear reason, the fable lay forgotten in Huxley’s estate and drifted out of memory for over 50 years. That is until one Sharon Stone discovered the manuscript in 1997 – it was published for the first time a year later. A joy for fans, then, but it’s unclear if its creators ever wanted it to see the light of day.

Jacob’s Hands

Huxley and Isherwood were highly influential throughout the previous century. So it was with much anticipation a duel effort was discovered. The short tale is about the life of one Jacob, a shy and mysterious man who works as a farm hand.

That is until he inadvertently discovers his hands have the ability to heal animals and people – ahoy, religious overtones and gasps of awe.

With two big name authors behind the works, who had inspired the likes of The Doors, films such as Cabaret, and a legion of literary fans, readers will have anticipated this one intently when it was discovered.

Set in California’s Mojave Desert during the 1920s, it’s a rather simplistic tale that happens to feature some grand concepts – pretty much in keep with some of Huxley’s mind warping works, but toned done a little.

As Jacob goes about curing people, he falls in love with a young lady he helps. This, however, backfires as she cheats on him after a brief relationship, before moving off with another bloke. Depressed, he hooks up with the Church of the Primitive Pentecostal Brotherhood. They discuss his usefulness and believe he should become a leading act in some vaudeville show (famous for producing the likes of Buster Keaton).

All of which, in its surprisingly concise way, make it a bit of a curious story. Frankly, we think it’s clear it’s a project the two authors worked on, but never intended for publication. It moves at a rapid pace and, whilst well written, clearly isn’t up to the standards of their other work.

We can’t help but think it’s a well-intentioned publication for fans who thought they’d never see any new Huxley/Isherwood works. But, ultimately, it falls a bit flat. St. Martin’s Press did a fine job for the hardback edition, as you can see with the nice artwork – it’s a pretty little thing that honours two legendary writers properly. It’s awash with all sorts of artistic flourishes.

But that doesn’t change the muted nature of Jacob’s Hands. It was intended for film. As such, it doesn’t translate well to what its current form is – it even comes across as an unfinished work, but that’s probably because it was. As a result, only go near this one if you’re a diehard fan in desperate need of some more Huxley/Ishwerwood canon stuff. Boom!

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