From 1738 to 1746, Edward Cave published in occasional issues of The Gentleman's Magazine semi-fictionalized accounts of contemporary debates in the two Houses of Parliament under the title of Debates in the Senate of Lilliput . The names of the speakers in the debates, other individuals mentioned, politicians and monarchs present and past, and most other countries and cities of Europe ("Degulia") and America ("Columbia") were thinly disguised under a variety of Swiftian pseudonyms. The disguised names, and the pretence that the accounts were really translations of speeches by Lilliputian politicians, were a reaction to an Act of Parliament forbidding the publication of accounts of its debates. Cave employed several writers on this series: William Guthrie (June 1738 – November 1740), Samuel Johnson (November 1740 – February 1743), and John Hawkesworth (February 1743 – December 1746).
When we first started seeing ads for director James Cameron's CGI extravaganza Avatar , we were like, warrior Smurfs? But now that we've seen it, whoa, are we impressed. It's not just the beautiful visual material that kept us riveted to our seats. We were also fascinated by the whole idea of the avatars: when wheelchair-bound Jake Sully gets to walk, run, and jump using his new, better body? It was as though we were running and jumping for the first time in who knows how long. We take a lot of things for granted in our daily lives. The great thing about science fiction or fantasy is that it can take totally familiar aspects of human experience and show them to us again in a fresh light. Avatar makes basic movements of the human body – walking and running – seem new and remarkable.
But, you may be saying to yourselves, what does Avatar have to do with Gulliver's Travels ? Well, James Cameron is drawing on a long fantasy tradition of bending reality to make ordinary things seem strange and unfamiliar. And Gulliver's Travels is one of the granddaddies of this genre: Swift takes regular topics like politics, international relations, math and science, and even old age and twists them. He makes political differences seem tiny by sending Gulliver to Lilliput and he makes math and science seem airy and far from daily life by floating the island of Laputa overhead. By depicting human customs we take for granted as weird and alien, Gulliver's Travels is asking us to look at them again as though for the first time.
But what Gulliver uncovers during his travels is nowhere near as lovely as James Cameron's Pandora. He finds nearly everything about people – their desires, their interests, even their smell – totally repulsive. Gulliver's Travels reflects human beings back to us in all kinds of creatively disgusting ways. This is a book to read when you're feeling mad at people in general, because boy, Swift is right there with you, hilariously hating all the while. Swift uses his creative reorganization of daily life to create the meanest, funniest, dirtiest rant of the entire eighteenth century – and we have to tell you, this novel has to be read to be believed.