To Orwell Today,
re: Jeffrey has recently started reading all Orwell's works & biographies
I am interested to know your opinion/feelings on the following:
I have now finished Bernard Crick's Orwell biography. I think the book was very well-executed, in that Crick is obviously an intellectual, and a very analytic political historian. He intended to (and did) avoid myths, gossip and unsupported theories about Orwell. Crick's is a very dignified biography: he clearly grasps the importance, nuances and evolution of Orwell's writing and political views. I learned much from reading the book.
I have now obtained a beautiful copy of George Bowker's Inside George Orwell. I read a very good review of the book. I wanted to see if there is much new of interest in that it was written 30 years after Crick's biography. What did you think of Bowker's book? (Because of work, it may take me a few months to actually get back to reading it.)
I would also like to know if you found the following books interesting: George Woodcock's, The Crystal Spirit; and The World of George Orwell, Miriam Gross. I mention these because they are favorably cited within Crick's biography and I now very much respect his opinion.
I have just begun reading Burmese Days (it is an easier read in conjunction with work than Bowker's 500 page bio). I will write you again when I finish Burmese Days.
Congrats on finishing GEORGE ORWELL: A LIFE by Bernard Crick. No doubt you did learn an incredible amount - it being almost encyclopediac in its detail. No wonder you're thinking you need a break before taking on another 500-page biography, but you'll have a much easier read with Bowker's, and with all the others.
There were two biographies published before Crick's, and two between Crick's and Bowker's, and one after Bowker's. Here's the list:
(1972)..... THE UNKNOWN ORWELL, by Peter Stansky & William Abrahams
(1979)..... ORWELL: THE TRANSFORMATION, by Peter Stansky & William Abrahams
(1980)..... GEORGE ORWELL: A LIFE, by Bernard Crick
(1991)..... ORWELL: THE AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY, by Michael Shelden
(2001)..... ORWELL: WINTRY CONSCIENCE OF A GENERATION, by Jeffrey Meyers
(2003)..... INSIDE GEORGE ORWELL, by Gordon Bowker
(2003)..... ORWELL: THE LIFE, by D. J. Taylor
As mentioned in the ORWELL BIOS RECOMMENDED section of my website, all of the books are worth reading and each of them contributes new material or further insight by building on what came before and what has most recently come to light.
Over the years I've used excerpts from all the bios when writing essays and articles about Orwell.
I consider the two earliest bios important reads too (especially the first one, ie THE UNKNOWN ORWELL, which helped me greatly while LOOKING FOR ORWELL AT ETON.
Now that you've read a biography you'll probably enjoy reading BURMESE DAYS even more than you would have otherwise - because now you'll be able to recognize Orwell in the character of Flory, and you'll realize that Orwell does not write fiction, he more or less writes autobiography. He's the main character in ALL his books (including 1984 where he's Winston Smith).
Regarding the other two books you mention - THE CRYSTAL SPIRIT: A STUDY OF GEORGE ORWELL (1984) by George Woodcock and THE WORLD OF GEORGE ORWELL (1971) by Miriam Gross - yes, I did find them interesting. They aren't books that I've sat down with and read front to back (as in the case of the biographies) but are books that can be opened randomly at chapters that focus on a particular aspect of Orwell's career or writing that a person is focusing on at a particular time. The Woodcock book is interesting, in part, because he was a good friend of Orwell's and so has special insights others don't have. And the book by Gross has lots of good photos, and provides background as to what was going on in the world at the time Orwell was writing something in particular. They both serve well as resource books.
Thanks for keeping me posted on how you're coming along with your Orwell reading and I look forward to hearing back from you once you're finished BURMESE DAYS.
All the best,
ORWELL'S OTHER BOOKS
To Orwell Today,
Thank you so much for responding to my questions about the various Orwell books.
I keep discovering little gems on your website. This weekend I am going to make time to watch that 1954 BBC production of 1984.
I will write again when I finish up Burmese Days. You may recall that I recently read Coming Up for Air, which I thought was excellent (and underated). Reading Burmese Days, it is clear that Orwell was much more developed as a writer by the time he wrote Coming Up for Air.
As you pointed out, I certainly can see that Orwell's novels are very much autobiography. I share your interest in his unusual life and great talent. Thanks again.
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