Archive for the ‘orwell’ Category
The tune had been haunting London for weeks past. It was one of countless similar songs published for the benefit of the proles by a sub-section of the Music Department. The words of these songs were composed without any human intervention whatever on an instrument known as a versificator. But the woman sang so tunefully as to turn the dreadful rubbish into an almost pleasant sound. He could hear the woman singing and the scrape of her shoes on the flagstones, and the cries of the children in the street, and somewhere in the far distance a faint roar of traffic, and yet the room seemed curiously silent, thanks to the absence of a telescreen.
Hmmmm… Have to give a talk about 1984 in a week at Foyles. Catch is said talk is to be in “pecha-kucha” format. So I’ll need a load of images of some sort – probably other than Lana Del Rey. What would you choose?
From Jeffrey Meyers’s Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation:
The Paris-born poet and translator Eduoard Roditi, who met Blair through the Adelphi in 1931, described how his gnawing social conscience prevented them from enjoying a decent meal or a walk through town. When Blair adopted his Jeremiah persona, he became a comically lugubrious companion. As they dined together, Roditi recalled, Blair described, “as if to discourage me from eating, the filthy conditions that he had observed in the kitchens and pantries of so many of the restaurants where he had worked.” After lunch they assiduously avoided the parks and wandered for several hours “in some of the most depressing areas of London.”
Obviously, Orwell didn’t invent this posture (pose?) but he does seem to me to be the trunk-line of its transmission from the slummy wanderings of Dickens and the like in the mid-19th century toward a whole genealogy of descendants, from Ballard through Sinclair and on to Petit, Keillor, Self, and the like. Flaneurerie cut with particularly English class pathology, psychogeography determined in its wandering but the subtle sense that the proles are having more and more gamey fun in the alleys behind their low pubs.
In my continuing efforts to understand London, this is one of those small differences from New York in literary-cultural stance that seems to me softly definitive. While of course I’m sure we can all come up with exceptions, it does seem to me to be the case that this pathologically-tinged practice of literary types has no real analogue in New York. New York writers gentrify, yes, in their real estate decisions and affectual preferences. But despite the fact that I was hanging out in New York with types, who if they were over here, would be likely candidates to drag you out for a walk amidst riverfront wastelands and crumbling council estates, it simply never happened in New York.
There are some practical negative reasons for this, first and foremost perhaps the fact that hipsters hanging out in the open spaces of the Red Hook projects with their digital cameras could well risk coming to an unseemly end. (An unfilmed episode of The Wire – a show which allows us to do our slumming in the safety of our living rooms, and which of course was more intensely loved in the UK than the US….) But it’s probably more than just that. Risking a sloppy generalization here, the difference between the two places does seem to reflect the fundamental psycho-ideological divide between the cultural classes of the two places. On the one hand: the persistent invisibility of class, even for those Americans whose vocation it is to render the invisible visible. On the other hand: the absolutely determinative suffusion of class, which goes well beyond a healthy acknowledgement of its efficacy as a social fiction, and on toward something like an unshakeable belief in its terminal and ineluctable reality…. An unshakeable belief and the distortions and misdirections and parapraxes engendered by such a belief….
– No end to his impatience, he sometimes fills the time as he makes his way from place to place with the subvocal, always incomplete, composition of poems. But reading Keep the Aspidistra Flying has made this impossible, would make him feel like a massive douchebag if he did.
– Keep the Aspidistra Flying is 1984 without the excess governmentally. Literally, almost exactly the same novel for most of the run. So what to make of the anti-totalitarianism of the latter? Or was the message from the start simply that Britain is a bloody grim place to live.
– No line captures the psychopathology that drives Orwell’s writing like “How right the lower classes are! Hats off to the factory lad who with fourpence in the world puts his girl in the family way! At least he’s got blood and not money in his veins.”
– He wonders what it means that this whole thing started for him with Orwell. He used to think that meant one sort of thing; now it clearly means another.
– Fabian inversionism, the birth of Ballardianism? No line captures the psychopathology that drives Orwell’s writing like “He never felt any pity for the genuine poor. It is the black-coated poor, the middle-middle class, who need pitying.”
– Do all the middle class British believe that the lower orders are having more fun (having better sex), just as white Americans believe on some level about black Americans?
– Early on in the newly released Diaries, Orwell is floored to see one of the authentic homeless whom he befriends while doing his touristic overnights on Trafalgar Square receive a small sum of money and then instantly blow the whole sum on booze. Haven’t these people any money sense? That could have lasted for weeks!
– One wants to say that the libidinal unconscious of his works is driven by an extreme form of persistent adolescent frustration at not having anywhere to have sexual encounters – parental prohibition, parental surveillance. But he went to Eton, where assuredly things at least worked a bit differently.
– Why wasn’t Orwell a modernist? Because he seems to have utterly lacked capacity for self-reflection. Interestingly, this gives modernist reflexivity a better name than he thought possible at this late date. Someone interjects But he was, in large part, a leftist! Yes, a leftist whose works became a if not the primarily tool for anti-communist interpellation via literature-instruction over the past sixty years! In every high school in America, the novels stacked to the ceiling! And look what’s come of that!
– Orwellian post-lapsarianism: poverty is bearable, even enjoyable, as long as you haven’t any experience of the other side (which is even more, somehow, unbearable).