The London Libertarian

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George Orwell

Current AffairsPosted by David McDonagh Tue, September 02, 2014 20:53:27

I criticise the above below. But immediately below is a link to a talk that David Ramsay Steele recently gave on Orwell.

His book on Orwell might well be out soon.

How mediocre was George Orwell?

George Orwell was no philosopher, or thinker, but rather he was a follower of Bertrand Russell. However, he was certainly a master of the English language. He might not have often been very informative, but even when he wrote on making a cup of tea, his prose was well worth reading, even if nothing much could be learnt from what he wrote.

Like so many others, it was all too easy for me to soon read all the main things he wrote in the 1960s. His surviving wife brought out his collected journalism in four volumes in 1969. All four have been widely read.

Daft Will Self picks on Orwell’s ideas of writing to criticise or to reject. This is certainly Orwell’s strong point. But in clear and readable writing Orwell has few rivals. This is why he continues to be read. Oddly, in this attack, Will Self confesses to being an avid reader of Orwell’s. He finds the books can be returned to again and again. How many others can he say that of? It does not occur to daft Self to ask why that is, if it is to be truthfully said to be mediocre. Presumably, it is because he finds the writing to be good, rather than mediocre. He even explicitly admits that he likes the style. But then the love of paradox leads daft Self to say that it is the good style that makes Orwell a mediocrity but the likes of Self rarely can see the difference between the sort of paradox that is logically valid but merely clashes with common sense only, that can be true, and the intrinsically absurd such as he employs here in saying readable prose is a sign of mediocrity. It is plainly a sign of excellence. The plain fact is that Orwell was an excellent writer. Hence his success as a writer.

Self confounds his folly further by saying that Orwell had a particular genius in his prose style that had almost hypnotic virtues of clarity that suggests to the reader that he alone comprehends what is being said. How mediocre is that?

Self seems to think the word “ideology” can do a lot of work in getting over his rather absurd message. He accuses Orwell of being an ideologue but the accusation is nebulous in the way it is used of late, as it seems to refer to no more than some sort of outlook, or other. Don’t we all have an outlook of some sort? Why bother saying it of Orwell [or of anyone else] then?

Self uses another intrinsic paradox to end with viz. whenever we tell a truth we thereby obfuscate other truths; but this, again, is yet another absurdity. A truth that should obscure nothing is that Self is clearly a bit on the thick side.

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