Thursday, February 21, 2008

Taking Pleasure in Scraps of Useless Information:
The Immortal Orwell on Why Writing Really Matters

'What I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art. My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice. When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, "I am going to produce a work of art." I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. But I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine article, if it were not also an aesthetic experience. Anyone who cares to examine my work will see that even when it is downright propaganda it contains much that a full-time politician would consider irrelevant. I am not able, and do not want, completely to abandon the world view that I acquired in childhood. So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take a pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information. It is no use trying to suppress that side of myself. The job is to reconcile my ingrained likes and dislikes with the essentially public, non-individual activities that this age forces on all of us...I will only say that of late years I have tried to write less picturesquely and more exactly. In any case I find that by the time you have perfected any style of writing, you have always outgrown it.'
--George Orwell, from his 1947 essay Why I Write. I encourage you to click on it to read and savor the entire piece. To review earlier mentions of this uniquely courageous voice, and to follow links to his equally compelling, and far more famous, essay Politics and the English Language, go here and here.


At 10:07 PM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

Thanks for this. It's a nicely timed reminder of things relevant to my own writing and its impetus. Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" essay should be required reading for all writers on a regular basis. Probably especially for bloggers who ever touch on politics. (Of course, I exempt myself from that exalted league, since my blog is never political. Just argumentative. Or maybe just opinionated. Is my tongue firmly enough embedded in my cheek yet?)

At 10:17 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Thanks, Art. Orwell is indeed an inspiration to anyone who creates, especially those who write. His visceral gut instinct for telling the unadorned truth is unlike any other writer I've ever read. Reading him leaves you feeling as though you've barely begun to touch the deeper subjects that you should be engaging with. And yet his deep moral seriousness somehow never comes off as sounding like preaching. He's just a serious dude, and somehow inspires you to take important subjects seriously as well.


Post a Comment

<< Home