Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Guys Read the Classics

Today, a book review by the Thin Man:

1984 by George Orwell

Like most folks, I tend to shirk on reading the classics. I read them once long ago as a school assignment, I know all about them, I’ve read what other people say about them—the list of excuses goes on and I skip to the next book in my reading pile. When I finally force myself to return to a classic and actually read it through the eyes of an adult, I am consistently surprised at what I find. George Orwell’s 1984 was no exception.
In popular perception, Orwell’s Big Brother overshadows the real villains, a situation counterproductive to Orwell’s intent. With so much emphasis on governmental surveillance, the underlying menaces—the memory holes, historical revisionism, the dissolution of the family unit, the systematic disassembling of the language—are forgotten, overshadowed by a ‘character’ inflated out of context for its Hollywood appeal. Orwell’s work has been perverted into a political tool to demagogue government while ignoring the societal dangers 1984 was written to warn against. If there is one concept which exemplifies the novel, it is not Big Brother, it is the idea that history is mutable.
This altered emphasis is a disservice to the work and its author. I would urge readers to take the time to revisit the book and read it with an open mind, free of preconceptions, and fresh with the memory of today’s evening news. In a day and age where textbooks are rewritten to match the politically correct flavor of the day and politicians propose the creation of a cabinet level Department of Peace (minipax anyone?), Orwell’s message is more important than the simplicity of Big Brother and much more relevant.

Related Reading:
The Iron Heel by Jack London
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
We by Zamyatin
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
Kirinyaga by Mike Resnick

(This review original written and published in Kilimanjaro magazine, reprinted with permission.)

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