Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.

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Pezevenk

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Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« on: February 25, 2021, 01:23:32 AM »
And also overused. References to his books are just wayyy too common and a lot of the time they don't even make sense, presumably because people haven't read them or they don't remember them, they just see other people making the same comparisons and it kind of becomes a game of broken phone. I didn't know many schools in the UK, US and Australia have his books as requited reading so I guess that explains part of why they are so overused.

Now back to the overrated part. Most people, including me, have only read 2 books, Animal Farm and 1984. That's the books most care about. Animal Farm I never really liked very much. It's not at all creative or artful or anything, it's just an excruciatingly obvious allegory about an oversimplified view of what happened in the USSR. The entire book can be condensed to "the tsars were bad and then Lenin did a revolution and they got rid of them which was good at first but then they started doing some bad things, and after Lenin died Stalin did more badder things and Trotsky was also kinda bad but he was not as bad bad and at least he tried to make things less bad and then Stalin killed him and everything was bad bad bad and it was so bad bad bad bad it was more badder than before". That's literally the entire book. There is no point in reading it beyond that because there is no artful prose, there are no particularly interesting characters, and no creativity. It's just "I'm gonna make an allegory about my limited perspective of the Russian revolution with farm animals". Many act like it is about "authoritarianism" in general and that its scope is broader but it really isn't. It is super specific. It only became popular because it was about the USSR being bad, and also the main message that it ends up passing intentionally or not is "things are bad but if you try to make changes they will get more badder", so it got promoted a bunch during the Cold War. Death of Stalin is genuinely better because even though it is even more inaccurate, it's at least funny and it doesn't pretend like it is anything more serious. It's just "we made a funny parody of Stalinism, the end".

Now, 1984 is a better book. There is at least an attempt at an interesting story and world building, and particularly close to the end it is good at having an emotional impact and evoking a feeling of dread. It's not the oh so insightful criticism of authoritarianism it is made out to be because it is -again- an amalgamation of Orwell's view of Nazi Germany and the USSR (especially the latter), and what he thinks the USSR was going to become (spoiler warning: it didn't). It is completely irrelevant to someone reading it today because it is not how authoritarianism is exercised, and to find something "relevant" you have to squint real hard and bang your head against the wall. People only THINK it is relevant either because they have been told it is, or because they haven't read the book/don't remember it and they imagine what it is saying by the way small excerpts are used in conversation. Pretty much the only society where what he is describing is somewhat relevant is the DPRK I guess but even then like half the stuff in the book are completely inapplicabl.

Nevertheless, I used to think it's an alright book. Then I read the review by Isaac Asimov. I don't agree with every point he makes but it's just so cutting. It makes some excellent points and mentions stuff I didn't even notice when I was reading it or I was just confused by, but totally make sense now. I think my favorite stupid detail was how Orwell was so scared of stuff changing that there was an entire bit about ball point pens (which were new technology at the time) scratch the paper horribly (as opposed to fountain pens lmao) and how people miss how real fountain pens are. Yeah, ball point pens, such a scourge on society. Who doesn't miss fountain pens?

Here is the review, it's a good read: http://www.newworker.org/ncptrory/1984.htm

Also he may have been a rapist which makes the dynamic within the couple in 1984 even weirder in that context.
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Jamie

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2021, 05:49:02 AM »
I'd more-or-less agree.

He was a competent writer who distilled complex things into fairly straightforward books with varying degrees of success.
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Pezevenk

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2021, 07:20:58 AM »
I'd more-or-less agree.

He was a competent writer who distilled complex things into fairly straightforward books with varying degrees of success.
Asimov kinda seems to argue he isn't really a competent writer, I was surprised by how hard he went on Orwell.
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Definitely Not Swedish

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2021, 07:25:31 AM »
Complaining about orwell being overused is about as overused as orwell references themselves.
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Pezevenk

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2021, 08:09:51 AM »
Complaining about orwell being overused is about as overused as orwell references themselves.
Not really.
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Jamie

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2021, 12:31:32 PM »
Asimov kinda seems to argue he isn't really a competent writer, I was surprised by how hard he went on Orwell.

Competent here meaning conventions, language, and mechanics.

He had a competent grasp of how to write, from what I recall reading his stuff.
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Space Cowgirl

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2021, 02:15:30 PM »
The people using 1984 as a blueprint like to pretend they don't like Orwell.
I'm sorry. Am I to understand that when you have a boner you like to imagine punching the shit out of Tom Bishop? That's disgusting.

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Pezevenk

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2021, 02:44:35 PM »
The people using 1984 as a blueprint like to pretend they don't like Orwell.
Asimov?

Who do you think is using 1984 as a blueprint exactly BTW? Because I think if you read it you'll see how irrelevant it is to pretty much everything. You can read it as dystopian fiction but it's not insightful for the real world. It is a lot more literal than people often assume. Orwell genuinely thought that's what the world was probably heading to by 1984, and it is comically wrong in that regard. Asimov is right that it exudes sectarian leftist energy. He was became very angry at stalinists so he came up with a very exaggerated version of what he thought the USSR was turning into, and his books were promoted because of the Cold War, despite his politics ostensibly being against the very people who ended up promoting his books.

And I don't think many people are "pretending" to dislike Orwell, way more people are clearly pretending to like Orwell.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2021, 03:00:04 PM by Pezevenk »
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Pezevenk

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2021, 02:51:21 PM »
Asimov kinda seems to argue he isn't really a competent writer, I was surprised by how hard he went on Orwell.

Competent here meaning conventions, language, and mechanics.

He had a competent grasp of how to write, from what I recall reading his stuff.
Oh yeah, for sure, although competent is about as far as you can take it, it is competent but it's not very artful, Animal Farm at least. 1984 does have moments that are very good at evoking emotion. Although the dynamic between the protagonist and what's-her-face and her character in general is just uncomfortable, in more ways than just the intended. Which I guess makes more sense in the context of Orwell allegedly trying to rape his childhood friend when he was 15... He definitely had issues with women.
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Pezevenk

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2021, 03:14:41 PM »
Oh fuck, I forgot about that essay where he describes how he imagined driving a bayonet through the guts of some young Burmese priests who were pissing him off, and described how he held an elephant to a greater regard than the Burmese... Y'know, normal stuff.
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Space Cowgirl

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2021, 03:14:58 PM »
I remember reading Foundation and wondering why Asimov couldn't imagine a future where women were more than baby machines and nagging wives. All these books are of their time. Some age well and some don't.
I'm sorry. Am I to understand that when you have a boner you like to imagine punching the shit out of Tom Bishop? That's disgusting.

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Eren

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2021, 09:51:14 PM »
The people using 1984 as a blueprint like to pretend they don't like Orwell.

Heh.

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Pezevenk

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #12 on: February 26, 2021, 12:00:21 AM »
I remember reading Foundation and wondering why Asimov couldn't imagine a future where women were more than baby machines and nagging wives. All these books are of their time. Some age well and some don't.
Yeah but with Orwell it is really bad, especially for someone who is promoted as "ahead of his time", and supposedly progressive. Like, the main character starts out wanting to rape and kill the only female character and future "love interest" because she was chaste. But then she started fucking him and he started "loving" her. Btw he even literally tells her "I wanted to beat the shit out of you and curbstomp you and rape you at first and I like you" and she's like "haha lol so weird". From that point her entire character is more or less defined by constantly wanting to have sex with him. Then there's another scene where she undergoes a transformation and becomes a "real woman" or whatever by putting on makeup.

I discovered that his friend Stephen Spender actually talked about this:

Quote
Orwell was very misogynist. I donít know why. [He] was a strange sort of eccentric man full of strange ideas and strange prejudices. One was that he thought women were extremely inferior and stupid. . . . He really rather despised women

He was his contemporary, so even for his contemporaries, it was pretty weird. Especially when his "comrades" were campaigning for women's rights. From his books it kinda feels like one of the reasons he was so angry at the USSR was their attempts to get women to be more than just caretakers of homes and children. In 1984 he seems to say that women's role as stay at home moms is deemphasized so that it weakens the mother-child link which apparently is too dangerous because it is strong and overwhelms the child-state link.
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Eren

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2021, 02:33:29 AM »
1995
English teachers.
"We need to read 1984 to learn about totalitarian societies."

2021
English teachers.
"Stop comparing modern society to 1984. We need a reality czar and its nothing like a ministry of truth."

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/02/technology/biden-reality-crisis-misinformation.html

https://archive.is/r2ZJH

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Definitely Not Swedish

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2021, 05:01:02 AM »
1995
English teachers.
"We need to read 1984 to learn about totalitarian societies."

2021
English teachers. Pezevenk
"Stop comparing modern society to 1984. We need a reality czar and its nothing like a ministry of truth."

Fixed it!
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Pezevenk

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #15 on: February 26, 2021, 10:54:06 AM »
1984 and the Art of War are the only things D1 has read in his life (no wonder, they're the standard go-tos for dudebros who want to feel educated) so it is very understandable that he becomes angry at criticism of it. If he has even read that really, it's much more likely that he just "read" it via osmosis...

The main question is why he isn't being banned, when he's very clearly going against rules for the nth time.
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JJA

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #16 on: February 26, 2021, 12:38:51 PM »
1984 and the Art of War are the only things D1 has read in his life (no wonder, they're the standard go-tos for dudebros who want to feel educated) so it is very understandable that he becomes angry at criticism of it. If he has even read that really, it's much more likely that he just "read" it via osmosis...

The main question is why he isn't being banned, when he's very clearly going against rules for the nth time.

This is why I am not a mod here.  You couldn't pay me to have to deal with this sort of thing anymore.

Well, the real reasons is they wouldn't want me, but I like the double layers of mutual safety anyway. :)

As for Orwell.  Overrated?  Meh.  He's a good writer and storyteller who worked with some powerful themes, what more do you want out of the guy?


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Space Cowgirl

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #17 on: February 26, 2021, 12:57:52 PM »
Are you literally shaking right now?
I'm sorry. Am I to understand that when you have a boner you like to imagine punching the shit out of Tom Bishop? That's disgusting.

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Eren

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #18 on: February 26, 2021, 04:34:17 PM »
1984 and the Art of War are the only things D1 has read in his life (no wonder, they're the standard go-tos for dudebros who want to feel educated) so it is very understandable that he becomes angry at criticism of it. If he has even read that really, it's much more likely that he just "read" it via osmosis...

The main question is why he isn't being banned, when he's very clearly going against rules for the nth time.

I'm not D1 and what rules am I breaking?

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JJA

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #19 on: February 26, 2021, 06:58:38 PM »
Are you literally shaking right now?

Shaking like a Quaker? I am not

Like shake shake shake your booty?  I like the song.

Are you asking if I use a Shake Weight?  Nope.

Or inquiring if I have epilepsy?  I do not.

Comparing me to Steven Hawking or Michael J. Fox?  I'm flattered.

I'm totally missing whatever this is referring to. :)

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Definitely Not Swedish

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #20 on: February 27, 2021, 02:10:12 AM »
1984 and the Art of War are the only things D1 has read in his life (no wonder, they're the standard go-tos for dudebros who want to feel educated) so it is very understandable that he becomes angry at criticism of it.
I am pretty sure he has also read Psychologie des foules by Gustave Le Bons.

Quote
Like shake shake shake your booty?  I like the song.
I like the stock. $GME.
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Pezevenk

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #21 on: February 27, 2021, 06:23:59 AM »
1984 and the Art of War are the only things D1 has read in his life (no wonder, they're the standard go-tos for dudebros who want to feel educated) so it is very understandable that he becomes angry at criticism of it.
I am pretty sure he has also read Psychologie des foules by Gustave Le Bons.
More likely that he's read 72 types of cuckoldry by Charles Fourier. Wanted to figure out which one he is.
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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #22 on: March 28, 2021, 04:45:26 AM »
Orwell and Tolkien and Asimov and Herbert and so many writers belong in the category of 'prototype.' It isn't that they wrote the 'Greatest Books Evar!' It's that they did it first, or were the first to gain a decent level of success with the conceit. Basically everything they've done has been done again in the decades since their time, by writers more in tune with modern sensibilities, and by writers that just plain did certain elements better. If you didn't read the books as a child, and only pick them up as an adult, they age horribly.

They deserve some level of study and appreciation for the groundwork that they set, it is often interesting how attempts to mimic old successes so often fail to grab what it was that made the original a success, but it shouldn't turn into the level of blind worship that the stories receive. Their value is historic and academic, not literary.

Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #23 on: April 01, 2021, 05:34:32 AM »
Some greek thinks he has a better grasp on whatever authoritarianism is, when he doesn't even know.

Promotion of totalitarianism and statism at its finest on display in the OP.

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Pezevenk

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #24 on: April 01, 2021, 08:03:47 AM »
Some greek thinks he has a better grasp on whatever authoritarianism is, when he doesn't even know.

Promotion of totalitarianism and statism at its finest on display in the OP.
OK buddy.
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Definitely Not Swedish

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Re: Hot take: Orwell is very overrated.
« Reply #25 on: April 01, 2021, 08:22:22 AM »
1984 and the Art of War are the only things D1 has read in his life (no wonder, they're the standard go-tos for dudebros who want to feel educated) so it is very understandable that he becomes angry at criticism of it.
I am pretty sure he has also read Psychologie des foules by Gustave Le Bons.
More likely that he's read 72 types of cuckoldry by Charles Fourier. Wanted to figure out which one he is.
All of them.
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