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Keep the Aspidistra Flying by Orwell, George ( Author ) ON Aug-26-2000, Paperback Paperback – 26 Aug 2000

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; Reprint edition (26 Aug. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0092JG54U
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.6 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 420,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Gordon Comstock loathes dull, middle-class respectability and worship of money. He gives up a 'good job' in advertising to work part-time in a bookshop, giving him more time to write. But he slides instead into a self-induced poverty that destroys his creativity and his spirit.

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By hfffoman TOP 500 REVIEWER on 17 Sept. 2015
Format: Paperback
This is the story of Gordon Comstock, aspiring writer, penniless, principled and self-loathing. Overwhelmed by disgust with society's worship of the money-God, he is surely one of the great tragic characters of English literature.

I think that anyone who has crusaded on behalf of their principles, struggled with self-destructive urges, or just wanted to opt out of conventional living, will find it a brilliant read. It is appalling and uplifting at the same time. Another excellent book dealing with similar themes (in a different way) is Someset Maugham's The Razor's Edge.

Orwell's strength as an essay writer is clear throughout the book. He is a master of powerful prose. His use of language is simply delicious:

"But how absurd that even now, in the era of central heating and tinned peaches, a thousand so-called poets were still writing in the same strain. For what difference does spring or winter or any other time of the year make to the average civilised person nowadays? In a town like London, the most striking seasonal change, apart from the mere change of temperature, is in the things you see lying about on the pavement. In late winter it is mainly cabbage leaves, in July you tread on cherry stones, in November on burned out fireworks. Towards Christmas, the orange peel grows thicker. It was a different matter in the middle ages. There was some sense in writing poems about spring when spring meant fresh meat and green vegetables after months of frowsting in some windowless hut on a diet of salt fish and mouldy bread. If it was spring, Gordon failed to notice it. March in Lambeth did not remind you of Persephone. The days grew longer, there were vile dusty winds and sometimes in the sky, patches of harsh blue appeared. Probably there were a few sooty buds on the trees if you cared to look for them."

If you like audiobooks, Richard E Grant's narration in the Audible version is wonderful.
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Format: Paperback
It is a testament to Orwell's writing that I kept on turning those pages despite the sheer misery of the main character, Gordon Comstock. It's quite a test to not let this frustrating character grate on you, with the banal repetitiveness of obsession with hate and money, even if it is a (successful) device to drive home a point about capitalism and make the few high moments all the higher! Still, I'm glad I stuck with the book to the end. Orwell's vivid accounts (as usual) bring the world in 1936 to life, his direct style giving the reader a sense of immediacy, and the interesting, observed characterisation - Sometimes I felt I could really hear or see what was being described! I love his observations.

Having read several of Orwell's books recently which I'd thoroughly enjoyed, I thought I'd give this lesser known one a go. Partly due to the time it was written, but also because of the fact it is set in London (and therefore some things are assumed to be self-explanatory, unlike those books set elsewhere), some of the references escape me. Also, clearly some words are not in common usage any more (his use of 'ironically' confused me, but will look it up). Besides these largely minor barriers, many of the social observations still feel contemporary and apt (as can be said for Orwell's other books in the same vein). And therefore you can relate to it, either humorously or morbidly, or both. At the same time, I'm glad we are not in such a class ridden, prescriptive society these days!

My rating would be 3.5, somewhere between 'okay' and 'good' - A decent offering from Orwell, but not better than that because I personally found the character's ongoing self-destructive chatter painful for much of the book!
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