1. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    ORWELL. Will Self rides to the rescue

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by matwoolf, Aug 31, 2014.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-28971276

    Will Self submits a weekly lecture on Radio 4. He can be awful, talking about his 'writer desk' for example was total high pomp: 'these coffee stains are the testament to many years of my effervescent genius spilt through keyboard and pen' kind of thing. However, here he is a lot of fun. Please enjoy. All the best
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    We were discussing this article elsewhere, @thirdwind and I. It's an interesting blend of disdain and compassion for what I think is referred to as "Little Englanders" in your neck of the woods. What I enjoyed most about the article was the small window into at least one British person's view of Britishness. There's no lack of holding forth on the net from Americans about Americanness, we all know only too well, so this was refreshing.

    ETA: Also, what both Orwell and Self are referring to in rather differently waltzed manners, respectively, is called register in interpreter and translator circles. Orwell calls for a lower register wherein plain thought is delivered as plainly and directly as possible. Self calls for high register which allows for nuance and other kinds of of word play. They both have their place. Neither Orwell nor Self is correct in any absolute kind of way.
     
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  3. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I can't help but disagree with the article in some ways. Yes, Orwell's essay that Will talks specifically about isn't totally right, it's a good guide to writing plain, easily understood political writing. So you don't end up writing doublethink.

    The problem I have with the article is that it is still treating Orwell as if he is a contemporary, when the man died in 1950. He's as distant from us as he was from Charles Dickens, just to show the gap between us and him. Yes, Orwell is still worth reading for today's society, but he's increasingly becoming outdated in the same way no one reads Dickens to find out about modern day London and English society. He still has some importance, which is why he's still being read however.

    As for the quality of Orwell's prose, I suppose in a technical sense Will is right. It has none of the eloquence or sophistication of someone like Nabokov or Pynchon, but it wasn't intended to be really. And anyone who thinks Nineteen Eighty-Four or Homage to Catalonia, or even his essay on Charles Dickens isn't good quality writing then I guess we are made out of different stuff.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2014
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  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The way I see it, Orwell's style was influenced by his essays (you could even say that he was primarily an essayist). In nonfiction, you want to be as clear as possible, and often times you don't want to leave things up to interpretation. That's why I think his prose style is the way it is. I think the style works great for nonfiction, though I find myself agreeing with some of the things Will Self says when it comes to writing fiction.
     
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  5. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I never would have thought to use the term "mediocrity" the way he uses it, but if I do use it that way, then this article is a pretty good selling point for mediocrity. If the intent is to steer me away from writing like Orwell, then the article does exactly the opposite. It is almost as if Orwell himself wrote it and posted it in order to discourage people from taking his detractors seriously.
     
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  6. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    This isn't actually a bad way of putting it. I have this pseudo-memory of something Orwell might have wrote in his novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying (though I could have just made it up) that Orwell's goal was to create a good standard working class literature. Something that would be read by the common man for pleasure, as well as being sufficiently sophisticated, and to inspire in him a certain sense of finer culture that could make him more politically and culturally adept, and thus be better Socialists, better equipped for 'the English Revolution'.

    It seems difficult for me to believe Orwell thought civil war would soon come to England after the defeat of the Nazi party, but it's not like he wasn't the only writer working at the time who was trying to turn the United Kingdom into a Socialist Democracy, or Communist Republic. Hugh MacDiarmid, the Scottish poet was another one. The 1940s was, despite for half of it London was a war zone, very politically volatile times. But at the same time, Orwell said that during the time WW2 was going on the English Revolution had already begun, and was a changing of consciousness. He never seemed to make up his mind on this issue, and those essays I would say are his worst.
     

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