Tag Archives: book

George Orwell 1903 – 1950

12 Sep

George Orwell

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.

George Orwell

George Orwell’s real name was Eric Arthur Blair (no relation to Lionel), but he changed it because Blairian sounds like a sub-standard soft rock band from the early 80s. He was a writer and journalist who coined the term ‘Orwellian’ which is used to describe authoritarian societies such as Oceania in Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four and North Korea. He didn’t like pigs.

He was born in Motihari, India and then his mother moved them to Henley-on Thames when he was a small boy.  He attended St Cyprian’s Boarding School in Eastbourne, which he hated, and then attended Wellington while waiting for his place at Eton where, when finally getting there, he was taught French by Aldous Huxley (minus the LSD). He did pretty shoddily at school (Eton shmeaton) so instead of going on to University (which was too expensive anyway) he joined the Imperial Police in Burma, now officially called the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. They have never won an Olympic medal.

To cut a long story short (it was a long story), he was posted to various places around India, but while on leave in England he decided to sack it off and become a writer in London. Living the dream, George, li-ving-the-dream. He lived in London long enough for them to commemorate his dwelling with a blue plaque on Portobello Road. Nice. I live in Royal Leamington Spa where we have some blue plaques of our own, the most exciting one being for John Ruskin who “lodged” here in 1841.

In 1928 Orwell moved to Paris which inspired him to write ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’. This title might give away the fact that his time in Paris wasn’t all Moulin Rouge and berets, and his writing career didn’t take off as planned. Like all brilliant writers through the decades he did a lot of crap jobs for mouldy cheese, cheap booze and the pong of failure.

Then he came back to Britain and did a bit of this and that, blah, blah, blah. Oh, he also did some teaching. This was his least exciting period.

In 1936 Orwell went to Spain to fight as a Republican against the Nationalists, but was forced to flee for his life from the Russian communists. Haven’t we all. While there he was shot in the throat by a sniper and miraculously survived, although I bet it stung like billy-o. There is a square named after him in Barcelona. You know you’ve made it when they name something after you. For me maybe a rose, or a library, or a blunderbuss!

The facts that can’t be disputed in court:

  • Born 25th June 1903 (Cancer = moody, unsympathetic pain in the bum)
  • Attended Eton school
  • Wrote books and articles and stuff
  • Married to Eileen O’Shaughnessy from June 1936 until her death in March 1945
  • He had one adopted son, Richard Blair with Eileen
  • Married to Sonia Brownell in Oct 1949
  • He died in Jan 1950 of tuberculosis

The books:

The best place to go for your literary “in-joke” clobber is Redbubble. I particularly like this Nineteen Eighty-Four slogan t-shirt.

In 1941 Orwell started working for the BBC, countering propaganda from the Nazis.  It was okay, but he quit and went on to become the literary editor of the ‘Tribune’ (a left-wing magazine) where he wrote book reviews and had the best job ever. He also spent this time writing Animal Farm which was based on the Russian Revolution and was inspired by his time in the Spanish Civil war.  It has a pig in it called Napoleon. Not wanting to give anything away, but poor, poor Boxer. Sob.

He then wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four and died.

Both Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm appear in Time magazine’s 100 English language books of all time (since 1923) and the BBC’s Big Read list which cites the top 200 books voted for by the public (Terry Pratchett appears on it 14 times, just so you know).

I have a Nineteen Eighty-Four mug.

You can join The Orwell Society for a mere £20 per year. DO IT!

In summary, he wrote some marvellous stuff and was a pretty awesome guy.

Truman Capote 1924 – 1984

21 Jan

Truman Capote

“But I’m not a saint yet.

I’m an alcoholic.

I’m a drug addict.

I’m homosexual.

I’m a genius.”

― Truman Capote

(and let’s not forget modest)


Truman Capote
, or Bulldog to his friends (I shit you not), was an author, socialite (boozer) and an all-round controversial fellow (see image).  I imagine he was a bit like marmite and Jeremy Clarkson, only better dressed. He wrote short stories, plays and novels including Breakfast at Tiffany’s, made into a classic film (although he thought it was a bit poop), and inspired a truly despicable song that’s now going to be stuck in my head all afternoon. Grrrrrrr.

He was good friend with Harper Lee (To Kill a Mocking Bird) who helped him research his most critically acclaimed work, In Cold Blood; a non-fiction novel based on the murders of four members of the same family in a robbery at their farm in Kansas.  It’s not a comedy. Capote spent a lot of time interviewing the suspects for research, and when the two men were convicted and sentenced, they invited Capote to their hanging. Given the choice between a night in watching Downton Abbey and an execution, I would have gone with the former. On a scale of one to insane, Capote attended the latter. Honestly. This may have been his turning point into drugs and alcohol. Just a hunch!

Philip Seymour Hoffman tends to play crazy-eyed lunatics and manic depressives. He played Capote in the 2005 film of the same name (Capote). When people say, “If you could invite anyone famous and/or dead to your dinner party, who would you choose?”  My answer would be, “I don’t give a mangy lemming as long as crazy Hoffman doesn’t turn up uninvited”. He looks like the kind of guy who makes a puke face while coughing out half chewed food into his napkin, pretending to be inconspicuous while purposefully making you, and all your guests know that he thinks your food is inedible bilge. I wouldn’t deny that it wasn’t, but that’s not the point. He would also refuse to talk to anyone except the cat. So yeah, he’s not coming to my party. However, he did win an Academy award for his performance as Capote, so congrats.

The important stuff for quizzes and Trivial Pursuit:

  • He was born in 1924
  • His star sign was Libra (flirtatious and self-indulgent, apparently)
  • His life partner was Jack Dunphy (that means he was homosexual)
  • He threw an infamous party and invited lots of film stars and celebrities. Then he wrote mean things about them and they got mad. How we laughed.
  • He became addicted to drugs and alcohol toward the end of his life (standard)
  • He died in 1984 of liver cancer (that would probably be the booze then)

There is a Truman Capote Society on Facebook, so if you would like any more information please ask them. I have a feeling it’s not very big though, so maybe you could also help them improve on their 102 likes.

Harper Lee isn’t one of the Penguin chosen authors (tut tut), otherwise she would be next. Instead I have opted for F. Scott Fitzgerald. I believe he’s a bit of a tosser, but we’ll see.

 

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