Isaac Asimov described George Orwell‘s dystopian novel 1984 as an “attempt to show what life would be like in a world of total evil, in which those controlling the government kept themselves in power by brute force, by distorting the truth, by continually rewriting history, by mesmerising the people generally.”
The novel was written in 1948 and thus set just thirty-five years in the future. This purpose, Asimov explains, was “so that even men who were already in their early middle age at the time the book was published might live to see it if they lived out a normal lifetime.”
Those men were around for the very beginning of the Digital Age and now their sons and daughters are remembering the warnings and apparently encouraging others to read it as well. Although sixty-four years have passed since the publication of 1984, sales of the novel have skyrocketed, up by a whopping 6,000% . The dramatic sales are attributed to revelations last week that the National Security Administration has been secretly using Big Data to collect information about the communications of Americans,
Here are ten passages from 1984 that are giving a new generation of readers pause:
It’s Friday! Time to kick back with a summer read, dig your toes into the sand, and crack open one of these beauties. Who said beers couldn’t be high-brow?
White Whale Ale
Yes, it is actually made with pages ripped from the seams of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.
Le Petit Prince (or The Little Prince)
Lament on love and loss, and forget about that self-obsessed rose already.
The Raven Special Lager
I actually had this once. Nevermore, nevermore.
My home is filled with books. Books on shelves, books overflowing shelves, books on my nightstand, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, on the floor. Most I manage to get through, if not always enjoy. I am a big believer in seeing it through. Most of my friends feel the same way. AND YET… there are always a few that we just cannot seem to finish. Some are classics that we know we should complete before the inevitable Rise of the Librarians comes to quiz us with tasers. Others are books friends raved about….or best sellers that have evoked a lot of fuss…for no reason YOU can discern.
Whatever the reason, here are confessions of my well-read friends and colleagues, many of them English professors, so I will have to give them Code Names so their students never find out their dark, dark, secrets.
Dense passage about the physiognomy of whales: the poor man’s Ambien. We all know that this should be read. And many of us keep trying. It’s our own…. yeah, you guessed it… Moby Dick (Insert groaning here.)
More Viggo Mortensen would have made this seemingly-endless series more interesting for me. Skipping the endless “songs” moves things right along though. Save yourself some time and listen to some Zep to catch up on everything you need to know about what you glossed over.
Another popular snooze-fest, this comment sums up our feelings in general:
“I can’t finish Paradisio. The torments of The Inferno and even Purgatorio appeal to my sense of schadenfreude, but people in heaven and Beatrice? BO-RING.”
4. Anything by Stephen King
I must say, in King’s defense, that his text On Writing is one of my favorites. However, King, to me, and many others, is like the Costco of literature. Do you really need that giant box of paper towels? Or that giant stack of largely interchangeable plots and characters?
Your education is in their hands… their totally shameless hands. Meet ten teachers who definitely had the last laugh. At you. In the teachers’ lounge. With all their friends.
1. This teacher who totally went there
2. This teacher who just shattered your dreams
3. This Chemistry teacher who refuses to give Gaga the artistic respect she deserves