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on 21 January 2017
I'm coming back to Orwell again...and its very rewarding.In my youth,I read everything he wrote,I think.
"1984" had a huge impact on me,of course,as did "Down and Out...","Wigan Pier...
"Homage to Catalonia" is perhaps the best book written on the Spanish Civil War,in the sense that you get a real feel of that absurd and terrible moment in the history of the country.
And "Decline of the English Murder and other Essays" is a real gem!.
I found a second hand copy here in Madrid,having lost mine from so much moving around.
His take on Kipling(someone that I love) is coherent,his view of Dickens,which I share,Dalí,eh,interesting,the English Murder..it's hard to pick a favorite.
"Why I write" is a classic,of course.
Orwell was also so much of an Englishman of the old school,the charm of which shines through his writing in this very fine little book of essays
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This is a great little book of short essays by George Orwell. Most of the pieces here originally were printed in newspapers/ magazines of the period. Two of them are from his experiences when dossing.


This is about the author's attempts to get thrown into prison for drunk and disorderly. We are taken on his tour of police cells and the now defunct world of the police courts, as well as the characters he met.

Decline of the English Murder

The piece that this collection derives its title from is about how the crimes that we see reported in the papers aren't like those famous cases of yesteryear. I remember where I was working in my teens, one of the women was being poisoned by another. Great excitement was felt thoughout the place when suddenly the police turned up to arrest a mild middle-aged woman. Like Orwell says here, such things just don't seem to hapen these days, in 1946 when he wrote this. My experience is of much later, but such things are few and far between.

Just Junk - But Who Could Resist It?

The compulsion to enter junk shops and rummage and browse for any 'treasures'.

Good Bad Books

An interesting discourse on literature. Books such as Sexton Blake, Doctor Nikola, and Dracula have always been popular, although they are not high literatue, aren't really that well written but have remained popular. Such a book as Dracula is now a classic, along with really high brow stuff.

Boy's Weeklies

An interesting look at these papers for the younger person. Orwell looks at such things as Billy Bunter and others, also how these papers were similar to each other.

Women's Twopenny Papers

This is in response to some comments that Orwell made in the above essay, that people had disputed over.

The Art of Donald McGill

An interesting look into the world of the saucy seaside postcard that we are all familiar with.

Hop-Picking Diary

From dossing in the West End to travelling down to Kent for the hop-picking season. This is very interesting because I don't know whether anywhere still practises this. I know that my grandparents, and great-grandparents both used to do this, and have heard many anecdotes.

All in all this is a great little book. It is only small and thus a quick read but it contains much in it that will make you think, perhaps in some cases disagree, and in others make you chuckle. With some of the things mentioned this is also of use for a look into the not so distant past's social history.
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George Orwell was one of the most interesting writers to ever put pen to paper. He specialised in reality and he spoke without fear or favour, from a left wing point of view. Historian Piers Brendan wrote of George Orwell: “Orwell was the saint of common decency who would, in earlier days have been either canonised or burnt at the stake.”
His influence on writing style is emobodied by his six cardinal rules of writing:

Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech
Never use a long word where a short one will do
If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out
Never use a long word where a short one will do
Never use the passive when you can use the active
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent
Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

We are of course, in a different era nowadays, full of the sexualisation of young boys and girls, whereas Orwell was writing in the mid-1930s, In this very short but straight to the point book he writes about some of his experiences – including getting himself put into prison on a drunk and disorderly charge. In the end he finds himself released after a day, in lieu of a fine of six shillings. It seems it was six shillings or a day in prison and as he was skint at the time…

The title of the book is a bit of a misnomer since he doesn’t discuss murder at all, except to say how much we all like one to mull over after our Sunday dinner. Doubtless true at the time. And perhaps even now. But he is wonderfully scatheing when it comes to the subject of children’s comics and Love story periodicals. They are oddly Edwardian in outlook, clearly an age away from the real life experiences of their readers. Many of the stories are set in public schools and concern the fat owl of the Remove. But I confess my own ignorance in not being aware of what the equivalent of these things are nowadays. I believe, in fact, they are today rather better than they were, at least those having an educational aspect. My own era of comic reading was all Belle of the Ballet, and Wendy and Jinx. I recall one about four girls, all called Mary in the fourth form. They couldn’t have been much further from my own experience.

His account in this book of Hop Picking is in many ways educational too. The 1930s would seem to have been a dreary time for everyone – especially if you were poor.
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on 22 May 2014
I never paid Orwell's nonfiction any attention, as Animal Farm, 1984, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, etc, tend to overshadow his essays.
This assortment shows Orwell's enthusiasm for a variety of subjects, and he writes about them with the same detached fascination.
In "Clink" he records how he overnighted in a police station for being drunk and incapable, and while disappointed at not being sentenced, he records and comments on the social and criminal traits of everyone else awaiting the judge.
In this essay, and in "Hop-picking Diaries" he shows the same careful observation and recording as he shows in "Down and out in Paris and London", and the same enthusiasm for the seamier side of life as a farm labourer in Kent.

He moves on from this to extolling the treasures to be found in a good junk shop (Just Junk-But Who Could Resist It?), debating what makes "Good Bad Books"-the kind which aren't literary marvels but are still pleasant reads, if a bit melodramatic. He holds up "Uncle Tom's Cabin" as a good example of these.

He also takes on the world of newspapers, critically dissecting crime reporting in the title essay, and commenting on what the reader's enthusiasm for, and the declining quality of, reports of murders says about society at large; analysing the cheap jingoistic patriotism and politics that are fed to readers of "Boy's Weeklies"; picking apart "Women's Twopenny Papers" and their stories imparting the moral superiority of the poor, and talks at length about low humour and rude postcards in "The Art of Donald McGill", and how this obscenity is a somehow essential element of literature because it's to be found in all of us.

As always, his writing is very well observed, and his unusual choice of subjects engaged me right away.
Plus, getting some pocket sized Orwell, just big enough to last me a train journey or a coffee-break, is the benefit of the Great Ideas series.
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on 16 August 2013
There is some really very funny stuff in this less known book by Orwell - 'murder simply isn't what it used to be' and getting arrested is far harder than you think!

A necessary read for all Orwell fans.
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on 20 February 2014
Regardless, of your thoughts on Orwell as a character; some are suggesting he was a government pawn/agent used to influence or infiltrate the minds of masses and, after all, between 1941 and 1943, Orwell did work on propaganda for the BBC, still, there's no doubt he's a fabulous story teller. With Orwell, one isn't draped in adjective laden descriptions and sensual indulgence but led along on a fabulous narrative journey and he makes the journey fluid and easy, regardless of topic.

This selection of essays does include the one used as the books title .. plus 'Clink' an amusing tale of his time spent trying to get arrested and gaoled but meeting, instead, with intelligence and fairness from the coppers and working peoples of the day. There's insight and wisdom to be found within his views on Donald McGill in the essay of that name.

His hop picking soiree found in his essay 'Hop Picking Diary' provides a tantalising window into the lives, labour and behaviour of some of the 'peasants' he meets .. and also underlines how relentless are the troubles from lack of money. Surprising that he never gave more practical assistance to the obvious plight of the poor he encountered. He wasn't a 'feeling' man.

The other essays are: 'Just Junk - But Who Could Resist it?' A tad dull. 'Good Bad Books.' Okay. 'Women's Twopenny Weeklies.' Fine but not as sumptuously insightful as 'Boys' Weeklies.'
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on 12 February 2011
The collection of essays included in this volume lets the reader understand many (if not all)of the features contained in books such as 1984 or Homage to Catalonia. Through his opinions on politics and literature the reader is able to have a global view of what Orwell's literary career represented for him, especially in the essay entitled "Why I write". One of the clearest conclusions is that his writings are new ways of expressing political views.

Under my point of view his mastery of the English language is much more perceptible in these essays than in his stories. However, as most of the essays regard British topics, they can lose interest for non-British readers. Even so, they are an essential reading for all those interested in knowing who's behind the vindication of freedom of "Animal Farm" and "Nineteen Eighty-four".
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on 13 April 2013
This was a very good read, I have long enjoyed Orwell's work, makes you think!
The book arrived quickly in perfect condition.
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on 4 June 2010
Anything with George Orwell as an author is something that interests me, specially if it comes in the form of a charming little Penguin book. Seriously, if for nothing else, these books are worth checking out by their cover designs alone!

This book, like "Books v. Cigarettes", is a collection of short essays written by Orwell. While the other one focused more on reading habits and childhood, this one deals mostly with popular English cultures, with the addition of a couple of amusing essays documenting Orwell's insider investigations.

The essay on popular fascination with crime stories in newspapers (which gives the book its title) was a great read, and so were the investigations (seriously - the author tried really hard to get arrested so he could see what it was like to be in prison, and it's funny how he complains that he couldn't stay in prison for longer than two days!). But the essays on weeklies, as well as the one on illustrated postcards, while interesting, seemed far too long and drawn-out, in my opinion.

All in all, a nice read if you like Orwell, though I would recommend you start by reading "Books v. Cigarettes".
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on 25 October 2016
His adventures remarkable. His observations brilliant. Interesting and witty stories. Definitely worth a read.
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