Sunday, June 22, 2003

Book reviews

Today's Los Angeles Times Book Review was particularly scrumptious—an extended review of Robert Lowell's Collected Poems, including a biographical sketch, and a shorter review of collected essays by Clive James.

Lee Siegel, James' reviewer, describes James' review of George Orwell's writing this way:
Considering, in 1999, the publication of George Orwell's collected journalism, James reflects on the strange fate of the adjective "Orwellian," which has been almost wholly detached from the author and applied to the condition of totalitarianism that he despised. "It is as if George Orwell had conceived the nightmare instead of analyzed it, helped to create it instead of helping to dispel its euphemistic thrall." In other words, the term "Orwellian" itself has now recast around the phenomenon of totalitarianism the sort of "euphemistic thrall"—gorgeous phrase—it once helped to sweep away.

Such an original, restorative perception serves the purpose not just of pleasure but of shaping a cultivated mind.

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