FRIDAY in REVIEW
There comes a time in every writers life when they must read. Or maybe there comes a time in a reader’s life when they must write – I feel this is similar to the “what comes first, the chicken or the egg” conundrum. One may never know…
But for me, the answer is simple – I was a reader and then at the ripe old age of 7 I became both.
As a writer, finding inspiration is a fundamental necessity to the craft. (& yes, hard work.) Finding a novel that instills the sort of inspiration that not only provides me with the courage to write, but motivate me to improve my craft, is a glorious feat. I have read many books (no, most are not listed on goodreads.) but sadly a lot of them have fallen through the cracked gray matter that is my brain. (If a reader reads a book and doesn’t post it on goodreads, does it still make a sound?)
But for every book that has slipped through my cerebrum, there are the few that stick like thick pancakes to your stomach lining. Each Friday I would like to share one of those books with you. My list of personal favorites. Maybe you will have read them, maybe you haven’t yet – either way I would love to hear your opinion.
To kick off this new line of blog posts I’m going to start with a wonderful book by George Orwell: Down and Out in Paris and London.
Published in 1933, more than ten years before the acclaimed Animal Farm and sixteen years before Nineteen Eight-Four, Down and Out follows George Orwell as he lives in squalor and sometimes locked up in prison blocks while taking on the life of those in poverty.
Yes, this sounds like a politically based book that shoves a part of the world in your faces most would like to pretend doesn’t exist – but that’s not it’s all about. Yes, there was, and is, an underlining issues of how the poor have been treated through time – but the story is really about the people he meets along the way.
As Orwell bonds with his subjects and they begin to trust him, you are transported to a world filled with lines, crusty bread, broken beds, repugnant bathing water, and incredible and indestructible people deal with the stigmas day in and out – for most of their lives.
Maybe you’ve read Orwell before and are reading this rolling your eyes a mile a minute – but I implore you (before your eyes lodge themselves in the back of your head) don’t let past experiences sway you from the enlightenment of this novel. There is an easiness to this book, as if you’re sitting at a bar reminiscing with an old friend – a comfort of sorts. And if that isn’t enough you are treated to true craftsmanship in passages like:
Sometimes, he said, when sleeping on the Embankment, it had consoled him to look up at Mars or Jupiter and think that there were probably Embankment sleepers there. He had a curious theory about this. Life on earth, he said, is harsh because the planet is poor in the necessities of existence. Mars, with its cold climate and scanty water, must be far poorer, and life correspondingly harsher. Whereas on earth you are merely imprisoned for stealing sixpence, on Mars you are probably boiled alive.
Being a beggar, he said, was not his fault, and he refused either to have any compunction about it or to let it trouble him. He was the enemy of society, and quite ready to take to crime if he saw a good opportunity. He refused on principle to be thrifty. In the summer he saved nothing, spending his surplus earnings on drink, as he did not care about women. If he was penniless when winter came on, then society must look after him. He was ready to extract every penny he could from charity, provided that he was not expected to say thank you for it. He avoided religious charities, however, for he said it stuck in his throat to sing hymns for buns. He had various other points of honour; for instance, it was his boast that never in his life, even when starving, had he picked up a cigarette end. He considered himself in a class above the ordinary run of beggars, who, he said, were an abject lot, without even the decency to be ungrateful.
A fantastic read, and if you happen to have an eReader, chances are you can download a copy for free from your local library – or you can read it online at -> http://www.george-orwell.org/Down_and_Out_in_Paris_and_London/0.html.
Happy reading! Happy writing! Happy Friday!
If you have any books you love and would like to recommend them to me, please list them in the comments below.