Thursday, January 27, 2005

Since my last update, I've finished "A Collection of Essays" by George Orwell, which is simply one of the best goddamn things I've ever read in my life. The guy is good enough to get me interested in reading Dickens, for Pete's sake! There's lots of absolutely brilliant stuff in there, and the man was clearly on of the greatest writers of prose to ever live. The essay "On Politics and the English Language" is the kind of thing that everyone should read, not only because it crystalizes a vital point about how what we say and hear (and write and read) affects the way we think, but because it includes one of the briefest and most powerful guidelines for writing clearly and effectively that can be imagined. I'll never attain Orwell's powers as a writer, but no one who takes either reading or writing seriously should miss this. As a more visual type of guy, I was equally interested in the essay "The Art of Donald McGill" an appreciation and analysis of a particular type of popular (not Pop) art with only vague analogs in my present place and time. McGill, it seems, drew low-brow cartoons for cheap postcards in England in the first half of the 20th Century. Orwell's belief is that because these cards were almost beneath the notice of the economic and political establishment, the jokes and caricatures on them could push the borders of 'common decency' and at the same time - actually almost the same thing - could express just enough subversive sentiment to keep the notion that the way things are isn't the best way for things to be alive. All this, while still remaining safely under the radar of anybody who might get censorious ideas about them. Best of all, the fact that they were so ubiquitous and cheap made the postcards seem not only impossible to eliminate, but completely harmless, despite the taboo subjects they covered. Essentially, what we're talking about here is outlaw art that's inside the law, AND has a mass audience.

Something to aspire to, you know?

I'm also better than halfway through "The Long Goodbye" by Raymond Chandler.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

50 book challenge, eh?.
OK, I'll give her a go.

So far this year, it's just one, but a goodie - Frankenstien, or The Modern Prometheus (and I could cheat a bit and add Trouble Is My Business an anthology of Philip Marlowe stories that I started late last year.) On deck I have Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, a collection of essays by George Orwell, and another Chandler book, this time the novel The Big Sleep. I better pick up the pace, though - two books a month ain't gonna cut it.