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Old 08-31-2014, 09:47 AM   #1
Bilbo1967
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George Orwell: A literary mediocrity (?)

Saw this on the BBC website today. Would you agree, or is it just a case of a journalist trying to make more of a name for himself through a controversial claim?

Quote:
George Orwell was a literary mediocrity and his views on the importance of plain writing are plain wrong, argues writer Will Self.
Was George Orwell a literary mediocrity?

Last edited by Bilbo1967; 08-31-2014 at 09:52 AM.
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Old 08-31-2014, 10:21 AM   #2
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Is Will Self a privileged mediocrity?
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Old 08-31-2014, 10:31 AM   #3
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Orwell only got the date (1984) wrong by about 20 years.
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Old 08-31-2014, 10:52 AM   #4
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Who is Will Self?
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Old 08-31-2014, 11:11 AM   #5
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The latter, I think. Just a piece with a controversial title to draw readers. In the article we find this:
Quote:
It was Orwell's own particular genius to possess a prose style that stated a small number of things with painful clarity.
So it seems that even Will Self thinks that Orwell had some sort of genius. Self's objection, it seems to me, is that Orwell is readily understood by the masses (hence to mediocrity), and Self seems to think this is a bad thing for an author to aspire to. This interpretation is further supported by this paragraph:
Quote:
And while I don't judge Orwell himself too harshly for his talent, I feel less well-disposed to those mediocrities who slavishly worship at the shrine of St George, little appreciating that the clarity they so admire in his writings is simply another kind of opacity, since in the act of revealing one truth it necessarily obscures many others.
And there is an element of truth in the concluding sentence. Much writing that seems profound manages to hide as much truth as it reveals - it's one of the things that marks out very clever speech-writers ... and journalists.
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Old 08-31-2014, 12:34 PM   #6
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Orwell is a better essayist than a novelist, and he's a pretty damn good novelist.
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Old 08-31-2014, 02:59 PM   #7
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It seemed to me that it was an exercise in self-publicity (pun intended) abetted by intellectual snobbery (as gmw pointed out).
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Old 08-31-2014, 03:01 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by darryl View Post
Who is Will Self?
Good question.
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Old 08-31-2014, 06:19 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw View Post
And there is an element of truth in the concluding sentence. Much writing that seems profound manages to hide as much truth as it reveals
Like the fact that there is no there there.
I instantly flashed back to BEING THERE.

Anyway, I find it amusing that he castigates Orwell for "reaching out to the masses" when Orwell himself was opposed to cheap books for the masses.

Apparently there are degrees of literary elitism.

Last edited by fjtorres; 08-31-2014 at 06:24 PM.
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Old 08-31-2014, 07:50 PM   #10
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Orwell was a fantastic essayist. Without doubt. His novels tend to land a bit flat for me, but I still enjoy them.
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Old 08-31-2014, 08:32 PM   #11
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Orwell's problem is that his best-known novels (Animal Farm, 1984) are not his best work.
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Old 08-31-2014, 09:01 PM   #12
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He doesn't seem to hate Orwell's work. Mediocre doesn't mean bad. "Now, don't get me wrong. I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity." "As for the essays, they can be returned to again and again...."

I haven't read any Orwell other than 1984 and Animal Farm. Based on what I've read, I wouldn't classify him as a great writer.

His big problem with Orwell seems to be a demand for plain English. In some cases, plain English is called for. Not all. I like to play with the language. I like to see other people play with it.
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Old 08-31-2014, 10:47 PM   #13
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I know who George Orwell is. I don't know who Will Self is, although he does seem to display some literary potential.
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Old 09-01-2014, 04:01 AM   #14
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Shouldn't this be in the General Forum or something? I don't think some guy's opinion necessarily qualifies as "News".
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Old 09-01-2014, 04:46 AM   #15
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Will Self is a left leaning intellectual well known in the UK - he likes to be controversial (but in this he often offers unusual points of view).
He has a wry, dry writing style, one of his novels was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_Self
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