Books v. Cigarettes

by George Orwell | Nonfiction |
ISBN: 9780141036618 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingcontowing of Lisboa (city), Lisboa (distrito) Portugal on 11/18/2008
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3 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingcontowing from Lisboa (city), Lisboa (distrito) Portugal on Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Synopsis:
Beginning with a dilemma about whether he spends more money on reading or smoking, George Orwell’s entertaining and uncompromising essays go on to explore everything from the perils of second-hand bookshops to the dubious profession of being a critic, from freedom of the press to what patriotism really means.
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This is a funny little book - a collection of seven essays published elsewhere (presumably previously uncollected?), and without really a defining collective theme.

It opens with 'Books v. Cigarettes', 'Bookshop Memories' and 'Confessions of a Book Reviewer', all very enjoyable, about reading and books. The first stacks up what Orwell calculates to be the cost of his reading over a year against the amount some factory workers he's been told of spend on drink and cigarettes while claiming they can't afford to read. The second would be recognisable to most people who work in bookshops today, while the third debunks the dreamy idea many of us must have had that it must be nice to be paid to read books and write about them.

'The Prevention of Literature' then discusses what happens to prose literature under a totalitarian state and tackles literary censorship, having some of the most interesting ideas in the whole book (although I wouldn’t quite agree with it all). For instance, he tells us, in 1946: “A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial: that is, when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud. Such a society, no matter how long it persists, can never afford to become either tolerant or intellectually stable.” or “ The fact is that certain themes cannot be celebrated in words, and tyranny is one of them. No one ever wrote a good book in praise of the Inquisition.”

After this, there's a rather confused piece on patriotism, 'My Country Right or Left', a report on his stay in a public hospital in France with 'How the Poor Die', before the collection closes with the longest piece in the book, a lengthy (and tiring at times) rumination on his time at St Cyprians, the boarding school he detested.

Of his days there, he also says: “Till the age of about fourteen I believed in God, and believed that the accounts given of him were true. But I was well aware that I did not love him. On the contrary, I hated him, just as I hated Jesus and the Hebrew patriarchs. (…) The Prayer Book told you, for example, to love God and fear him: but how could you love someone whom you feared?”

What I most liked about this book is that, nearly 70 years after he wrote them, the subjects of George Orwell’s essays in Books v. Cigarettes are still open for debate and – in some cases – remain stubbornly unresolved.
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And now I'll get this book to kizmiaz, for I guess he'd like to read it.

Journal Entry 2 by kizmiaz from Belém , Lisboa (cidade) Portugal on Friday, January 23, 2009
Got it and will start soon, thanks conto.

Journal Entry 3 by kizmiaz from Belém , Lisboa (cidade) Portugal on Monday, January 26, 2009
I agree that these essays have little to do with each other, except the first three, and it makes me wonder why they were put together like this. Still there’s some good stuff here.
I especially liked Bookshop Memories because it reminded me of the time I worked in a record shop at a certain point I could swear me and Orwell had the same clients, I also enjoyed How The Poor Die except for that ultra nationalism the author displays, for a person who hated totalitarian states and what they represent he’s got too much of a nationalist streak, everything’s great in England and bad elsewhere.
I did find the piece about St. Cyprian’s School a bit long and rambling sometimes but it also had some amazingly interesting thoughts on education, religion and self respect.
All and all it’s a good reading and like conto says most of these subjects are still open for debate and the writing still carries very poignant thoughts, like this one written in 1946, but it could have been today:” Political writing in our time consists almost entirely of prefabricated phrases bolted together like the pieces of a child’s Mecano set.”

Journal Entry 4 by wingcontowing from Lisboa (city), Lisboa (distrito) Portugal on Sunday, February 01, 2009
Regressado a casa.
AVL para se alguém o quiser...

Journal Entry 5 by wingcontowing at Wandlitz, Brandenburg Germany on Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Released 9 yrs ago (5/20/2009 UTC) at Wandlitz, Brandenburg Germany

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At last!!!

After agreeing on a trade almost 2 months ago, I suddenly went blind and that's why this one is going only now. Sorry for that. I hope you enjoy it and I enclose the other Orwell book I also had with me as an apologizing "rabck".

Have fun!

Journal Entry 6 by lola-negri from Wandlitz, Brandenburg Germany on Saturday, May 23, 2009
conto, you angel, THANK YOU so much for the TWO orwell books! what a suprise to get more than one ... i bet they were worth waiting. :)

Journal Entry 7 by lola-negri from Wandlitz, Brandenburg Germany on Saturday, July 11, 2009
i've finally managed to read the book.
it's just another proof for orwell's genius as a writer of essays. his famous books may be a nice read, but in my opinion it's the collection of essays, which show orwell's significance.
how could i not admire someone, who writes sentences such as, "here i am not trying to deal with the familiar claim that freedom is an illusion, or with the claim that there is more freedom in totalitarian countries than in democratic ones, but with the much more tenable and dangerous proposition that freedom is undesirable and that intellectual honesty is a form of antisocial selfishness."

this collection contains the following essays:
"books v. cigarettes"
"bookshop memories"
"confessions of a book reviewer"
"the prevention of literature"
"my country right or left"
"how the poor die"
"such, such were the joys"

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