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Library Journal Review
George Orwell (1903-50) is best remembered for his dark and prophetic political novels, Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949). In addition to four other novels, he also produced some of the best book-length nonfiction of the modernist era, including Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) and Homage to Catalonia (1939). Harcourt is now republishing in two volumes his collected essays, compiled by Packer (The Assassin's Gate: America in Iraq). What is most astonishing about these essays are their continuing freshness and relevancy more than half a century after Orwell's death. All are worth reading for some combination of literary, historical, or cautionary merit. His criticism of art and politics (and sometimes both) remains spot-on, and the "unpleasant facts" he considers, including war, poverty, homelessness, lack of adequate medical care, and even schoolboy bullying, are unfortunately still familiar topics. Orwell's crisp and clear journalistic writing style remains highly accessible to 21st-century readers, with the occasional, now obscure reference illuminated by Packer's notes. Essential for academic libraries; highly recommended for public libraries.--Alison M. Lewis, formerly with Drexel Univ. Lib., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Best known for his late-career classics Animal Farm and 1984, George Orwell--who used his given name, Eric Blair, in the earliest pieces of this collection aimed at the aficionado as well as the general reader--was above all a polemicist of the first rank. Organized chronologically, from 1931 through the late 1940s, these in-your-face writings showcase the power of this literary form. The range of subjects is considerable, from "Shooting an Elephant" to remembrances of working in a bookshop ("The combines can never squeeze the small independent bookseller out of existence..."); from recollections of fighting in the Spanish Civil War to culinary oddities such as a "Defence of English Cooking" and "A Nice Cup of Tea"; to the broad-stroke masterwork of boarding-school irony, "Such, Such Were the Joys." New Yorker contributor Packer (The Assassins' Gate) keenly assembles and introduces this selection, bringing into high relief Orwell's range of experience and committed humanism, showing how, as Orwell put it, "to make political writing into an art." (Oct. 13) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Book Review
The first of two volumes of the British author's essays, compiled by journalist George Packer. Orwell (1903-50) was no Flaubert closeted in aesthetic concentration. He was a vigorous participant in the chaotic life of his time, traveling to dangerous places (Burma under British rule, Spain fragmented by civil strife) and venturing into the culture of poverty--in his documentary masterpiece Down and Out in Paris and London and in such memorable transcriptions of personal experience as reports on his day spent in a filthy workhouse ("The Spike") and a similar adventure in a festering prison ("Clink"). Readers familiar with Orwell's work will not be surprised to find the aforementioned, or a kindred depiction of "Marrakech" as a swamp of poverty, overpopulation and disease, or a thoughtful if embittered retrospective essay, "Looking Back on the Spanish Civil War," which forms a bridge to his great nonfiction book Homage to Catalonia. Some may be surprised, however, to encounter a memoirist who displays a quirky affection for the minutiae of the quotidian ("The Case for the Open Fire," "In Defence of English Cooking," "Bookshop Memories") and a keen observer who always zeroes in on the broader ramifications of a simple subject (e.g., describing English football in "The Sporting Spirit" as "an unfailing cause of ill will"). The journalistic virtue Orwell does not possess in abundance is, oddly enough, objectivity. Readers will feel his inquiring, combative, judgmental sensibility lurking everywhere in his best work: bitter self-criticism in the twin classics "A Hanging" and "Shooting an Elephant"; stoical courage and depressive exhaustion in his immensely detailed "War-time Diary" (1940); his need "to make political writing into an art" in "Why I Write"; and the salutary indignation that enlivens his justly famous remembrance of public-school experiences ("Such, Such Were the Joys"). A generous display of the great English journalist's distinctive honesty, clarity and reverence for the pertinent fact and the perfect phrase. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.