Tuesday, March 7, 2017

1984 by George Orwell (1949)

Let's start with the fact that in seventh or eighth grade, I read Animal Farm by George Orwell thinking it was going to be like Narnia or Charlotte's Web for grownups, because it had talking animals in it, and it wasn't like those books AT ALL.  I mean, if instead of Edmund Lucy had betrayed Tumnus to the White Witch and Lucy herself made Tumnus into glue, then Animal Farm would have been like Narnia.  Just because animals talk doesn't mean a book is going to be enjoyable (sort of how I felt about The Magicians).

I don't think I ever read 1984, I imagine because of my Orwellian traumatization.   I have it in my head that I started it at some point in high school, made a face, and went back to Tolkien.

Jump to 2017, and I've at last read, and been thoroughly horrified and depressed by 1984.    It's my own damn fault I have to read it too.  I wasn't ever planning on reading it, but it's for my book club.  My book club book this month was supposed to be Connie Willis's Crosstalk (my choice) but I suggested we read 1984 because since the election of our current authoritarian-in-chief and the decline of our government, 1984 has been one of Amazon.com's bestsellers (it's current at 31).  And everyone agreed, and now here I am, depressed.

Jesus, this book is depressing.  Orwell gives us no fucking hope whatsoever.  The world is going to de-evolve into a nightmarishly totalitarian place, and there doesn't seem to be a damn thing we can do about.  Fuck you Orwell.  Fuck you.

I completely ken why people are reading the book (again).  I would be arguing that he-who-must-not-be-named seems to have taken some of his raison d'etre right from the pages of 1984 except it's becoming more and more obvious that he-who-must-not-be-named is (insert word meaning "knows how to read but is too stupid to actually read anything other than a tweet about himself").  But the minions of he-who-must-not-be-named have clearly read this book; it's almost a like a playbook (along with Mein Kampf).   His and their mastery of Orwell's doublethink and doublespeak; his and their scary ability to manipulate the past to control the present (but hopefully and wishfully and prayerfully NOT the future); his and their use of the a modern medium ("let's all sing like the birdies sing... tweet, tweet tweet, tweet tweet...") to keep half the masses frothing and ranting and raving and on their side.  Additionally, there is Orwell's idea of a society based the retention of power rather than class that resonated as well.  I also keep thinking about "it was only a hopeless fancy," the essentially meaningless "prole" song of the moment created by Big Brother and Co. as part of an unending series of "bread and circuses" meant to dupe the ignorant public (Kardashian, anyone?).  And never ending wars the public gets all riled up and patriotic about periodically, but most of the time ignore (this isn't just a Trumpian thing though).  And a police state.  And everything being political (on both the left and the right).  And how what used to be orthodoxy has become the golden mean...

There is too much of a mirror here; too goddamned much.

The world is not 1984.  Yet.  I don't think we are being spied on through our t.v. screens.  Just our internet.

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Orwell is obsessed with sex.  I guess he was writing in a more repressed time than our own, and sexual freedom and expression seemed like A Big Deal then.  Not so much now.

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As a book, it's really pedantic.  I thought Orwell had A Point To Make, which was made at the expense of most of what makes up a story.  That said, some of the book was quite gripping.  I didn't particularly like anyone in the book, but they all had tough lives and had been molded into unpleasant people, so I can forgive them that.  



19841984 by George Orwell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Let's start with the fact that in seventh or eighth grade, I read Animal Farm thinking it was going to be like Narnia for grownups, because it had talking animals in it, and it wasn't like those books AT ALL. I mean, if instead of Edmund Lucy had betrayed Tumnus to the White Witch and Lucy herself made Tumnus into glue, then Animal Farm would have been like Narnia. Just because animals talk doesn't mean a book is going to be enjoyable (sort of how I felt about The Magicians). Because of my Orwellian traumatization, I've avoided 1984 until now, and now only because my book club is reading this (at my suggestion too, what a fool I was, what an addlepated fool). By the last page, I was morose as f&&& (thanks again Orwell). Lord, this book is depressing. Orwell gives us no f&&&ing hope whatsoever. The world is going to de-evolve into a nightmarishly totalitarian hell hole, and there doesn't seem to be a damn thing we can do about (side note: the polar bears are all going to die too). F&&& you Orwell. F&&& you. However, I completely understand why so many people (of a certain political bent) are reading this right now (again for most, I imagine) though; 1984 seems to be the playbook for our current national government. All that doublespeak and doublethink tweet tweet tweeting forth from he-who-must-be-named must have Orwell staring down (or up?) with bemused horror.


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