|Would have been brilliant. |
Except for all the fucking talking ANIMALS in it.
Guy Goodman St.White here. I'm your utterly British sounding host and this evening we'll be reviewing George Orwell. What, you say? I've been going roughly in order and George Orwell skips from Shakespeare's contemporaries straight into the mid 20th century, if you hadn't already noticed that is a half empty bottle of Jack Daniels sitting on my desk, so my preoccupation with reviewing the cannon in the proper order is somewhat...relaxed this evening. I apologize to those of you who have become accustomed to my fastidious professionalism, but I'm still coping with the fact that this is the kind of a job where I might have to fight off dimensional invaders or lose colleagues to rogue generals. Let's just say this job is definitely not worth eleven-five a year.
That's eleven dollars and five cents in case you're unaware of the budgetary constraints here at Writing About Writing. Ever since Chris blew fifty trillion dollars on research and development trying to get bacon to come through the internet, the budget around here has been a little shoestring.
But let's not get distracted.
Orwell: Total Hack
Orwell's two most well-known books--indeed the only two books of the nine he wrote of which most people are aware--are 1984 and Animal Farm. An interesting factoid, which most plebs like to accumulate like brain detritus, is that these two books are the best selling pair of books of any 20th century author. Other books did better, but no single author wrote TWO books that did as well. Stephen King will have to just stick it in his ear. (And the collected hackworks of J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown straddled the 20th/21st century divide.) That makes this author unquestionably one of the best selling of the 20th century.
Of course the taste of the plebs is, as ever, no more than an example of what real literature isn't. You show me a book with the slightest bit of commercial appeal, and I'll show you a book that bloviates with sub-optimal prose skill, and Orwell the sellout is no exception. The speculative drips from Orwell's sophist offerings to the written word in what one can only assume is a deliberate attempt to write the worst examples of genre tripe in the 20th century. And Orwell just happens to be awful enough to pull it off. One of these books is no more than rank science fiction and the other some bent piece of magical realism. My two year old also has a book with magical talking animals in it. Neither of Orwell's novels are worthy of any literary attention due to their total lack of realism. If Animal Farm had been a seedy portrayal of the actual Russian Revolution with actual people instead of some wannabe side story in the Chronicles of Narnia, it might have been truly literary--and interesting to far fewer people.....which means it's good. Throw in some same sex relationships and a couple of unaccepting parents, and Orwell could have been one of the greats.
And if 1984 had been.....well, there's really no way to salvage that steaming pile of speculative flotsam. Setting a story in the future means it is automatically not literature. Ever. Or didn't George get the memo?
I'm not exactly sure how Orwell thought he could portray the human condition when he was writing about animals (who somehow manage to engage in agriculture without prehensile thumbs). I mean...the human condition is human, right? It's not called the farm animal condition. Clearly both this linguistic "shart" (as you yanks say) and the exploits of Winston Smith, frolicking about in a not-even-remotely accurate prediction a dystopian future, can't even come close to real literature. They are no more than trite examples of genre work that offer nothing in the way of quality character development or compelling themes.
13 o'clock? Bah! That's not literature.
So please join us next month for our next installment of "Speculative Fiction Sucks Balls--And Not in the Good Way." I'm Guy Goodman St.White. Good-night.
P.S.- Chris has insisted I begin to sell out in my reviews. Even though you could get both of these books at any used book stores for probably about a dollar, if you want a shiny, new, overpriced copy delivered right to your door, you can get them here.