George Orwell

The Executor for George Orwell’s Literary Estate Responds to Amazon’s “Doublespeak”

Bill Hamilton, the executor of George Orwell’s literary estate, has some strong words for Amazon’s quoting of Orwell… Read More

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A Brief History of Inappropriately Invoking George Orwell

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better.” This is a quote from George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language,” and it could lead one to say, “Hey, you know, the way people inappropriately call things Orwellian all the time is, like, totally Orwellian!” But let’s not say that, because it would be silly. Instead, in view of Amazon’s hilarious misappropriation of an Orwell quote in its ongoing battle with Hachette, it might be more fun to take a look at a few of the many times in recent memory when Orwell’s memory has been used and abused. Take a look after the jump, but watch out for Big Brother. … Read More

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50 Incredible Novels Under 200 Pages

Springtime can make even the most devoted of readers a little bit antsy. After all, there are flowers to smell, puddles to jump in, fresh love to kindle. You still want to have a novel in your pocket — just maybe one that doesn’t require quite so epic an attention span. Never fear: after the jump, you will find 50 incredible novels under 200 pages (editions vary, of course, so there’s a little leeway) that are suitable for this or any… Read More

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Mundane Futurism: St. Vincent, ‘Her,’ and the 21st Century’s Bland New Dystopia

The 20th century’s visions of the future were as grandly dramatic as its narratives of the present — either it was flying cars and space colonies, a utopian vision of the rewards of ceaseless Progress, or it was a terrifying dystopia wherein people were ground in the machinery of state power. Either way, artists presented the future as something that would be radically different from the present, for better or worse. … Read More

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6 Crooked Books for Crooked Politicians

As Mark Twain once said, “An honest man in politics shines more there than he would elsewhere.” We got our latest reminder of that earlier this week, when it was revealed that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s deputy chief of staff arranged for some “traffic problems” for a town whose mayor didn’t endorse the governor during his reelection campaign. Of course, the details of Christie’s involvement aren’t yet clear, but clearly someone in his inner circle intentionally did something crooked. For them (and you), we offer this reading list of books that might be as crooked as they are. … Read More

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The Joys of Rediscovering Dead Socialist Writers

There are writers who are likely to be better understood or more beloved by readers who have occupied the same corner of the world where the author came from or based most of his or her work. I don’t necessarily mean that if you come from Mississippi, you automatically appreciate Eudora Welty more than somebody from Kansas, or that someone from the East Coast couldn’t possibly comprehend John Fante’s haunted Los Angeles. But reading something and being able to immediately envision its setting and milieu is a powerful advantage. … Read More

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10 of the Greatest Essays on Writing Ever Written

If there’s one topic that writers can be counted on to tackle at least once in their working lives, it’s writing itself. A good thing too, especially for all those aspiring writers out there looking for a little bit of guidance. For some winter inspiration and honing of your craft, here you’ll find ten great essays on writing, from the classic to the contemporary, from the specific to the all-encompassing. Note: there are many, many, many great essays on writing. Bias has been extended here to personal favorites and those available to read online. Also of note but not included: full books on the subject like Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Stephen King’s On Writing, and Ron Carlson’s Ron Carlson Writes a Story, or, in a somewhat different sense, David Shields’ Reality Hunger, for those looking for a longer commitment. Read on, and add your own favorite essays on writing to the list in the comments. … Read More

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10 Illuminating Nonfiction Books About Poverty

The New York Times today ran a groundbreaking story about a 12-year-old child who, growing up in a Brooklyn homeless shelter, leads something of a modern Dickensian existence. While stories about the poor do not run as often as they should, they also constitute something of a prestige genre in nonfiction writing. Many of the great names in journalism have been those who have doggedly pursued the stories of the poor. The appeal of these stories is the way they challenge others; the focus on humanistic detail with which they necessarily qualify the established narratives about poverty — you know, all those slogans politicians shout about bootstraps and the like. The irony is how seldom these powerful narratives actually seem to move the gears of power. It’s hard not to notice the themes repeating themselves again and again in these books across ages and time periods. … Read More

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12 Must-Read Collections of Famous Authors’ Letters

Letters of Note, the popular website that publishes exactly what its name implies, has finally put out a book filled with letters sent by everyone from Virginia Woolf to Nick Cave to Jack the Ripper. Not too surprisingly, that collection is also titled Letters of Note.

What might draw us to these letters is the fact that we just don’t send physical mail as much as we used to. Email correspondences are locked behind passwords, and no great thinkers have offered up the contents of their inbox to be published in a book (yet…). Letters of Note, both the site and this new collection, is a throwback of sorts, but the letters it publishes also help us understand famous people we are interested in, and give us a different way of looking into their thoughts. … Read More

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15 Works of Dystopian Fiction Everyone Should Read

Dystopian fiction has enjoyed a renaissance in these scary post-9/11 times, and the fact that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is sure to destroy all competition at the box office is a testament to the fact that, weirdly enough, fiction set in some post-apocalyptic world run by some totalitarian government has occupied the same place in the current cultural zeitgeist as otherworldly monsters like vampires and zombies. … Read More

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