"Why I Write" describes Orwell's sense of political purpose, and the classic essay "Politics and the English Language" insists on clarity and precision in communication in order to avoid the Newspeak later described in 1984.
Other essays focus on Gandhi (he "disinfected the political air"), Dickens ("no novelist has shown the same power of entering into the child's point of view"), Kipling ("a jingo imperialist"), Henry Miller (who told Orwell that involvement in the Spanish war was an act of an idiot), and England "a family with the wrong members in control").
©1954 Double Day Inc.; (P)1994 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
These essays are unusually smart and convey Orwell's particular brand of thinking. The flavor of the book is very English, somewhat glum, but intellectually stimulating. The parts which are dated (the English are a particularly gentle people) or esoteric (a long discussion about the meaning of popular picture post cards) or suspect (socialism or totalitarianism or the only viable options), are still quite interesting and even illuminating. The narrator is very upper-crust-sounding, but it fits somehow. The four stars are not five only because there are so many skips -- not just one or two as you might have in any recording, but dozens -- that it sometimes affects the meaning. When you have a writer who uses prose as economically as Orwell, you can't afford to lose many words.
This is a first-rate collection of essays by one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. The reader, Frederick Davidson, is excellent (as usual). As other reviewers have pointed out, the recording skips in places; this happens especially often in the latter half of Part 2. In nearly all cases the skips are tiny and it's easy enough to fill in the missing word (and it really does seem to be just one word that's affected), but there are a few more substantial skips. This isn't really acceptable, frankly, but I found it detracted less from my enjoyment of the book than one might think. It's not ideal, but it's hardly a fatal flaw when the content is so very good.
The complete contents are as follows:
- "Such, Such Were the Joys"
- Charles Dickens
- The Art of Donald McGill
- Rudyard Kipling
- Raffles and Miss Blandish
- Shooting an Elephant
- Politics and the English Language
- Reflections on Gandhi
- Looking Back on the Spanish War
- Inside the Whale
- England Your England
- Boys' Weeklies
- Why I Write
I agree almost completely with the earlier review here. The pieces are all interesting, very illuminating, and, of course, exceptionally well written. The skips in the audio are mainly in the second half, and while they are irritating, the book is well worth the trouble.
This would be a four or five-star book, if it were not for the inexcusable and frequent skips in the second half of the production, which are not only disconcerting, but sometimes make it difficult to follow the narration. This edition should be withdrawn and the production remastered or re-narrated.
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