The years spanned by this collection--1945-1950--were monumental ones for George Orwell, years in which his literary reputation and his bank account grew in tandem, thanks to the publication of Animal Farm and 1984. The realignments brought about by the end of World War II and Orwell's increasingly virulent anti-Stalinism provided ample fodder for the political journalist. Regular columns in British papers and frequent contributions to such American journals as the Partisan Review exercised the literary critic, the essayist, and the commentator on popular culture. Even while grieving for his first wife, caring for his adopted toddler son, bedridden by the lung ailments that killed him early in 1950, Orwell was still regularly producing four pieces every week. Increasingly, his social life took place by mail.
The brave, wistful letters Orwell wrote to personal friends and professional colleagues in his last year show him trying to imagine a future even as he put his affairs in order. On 11 May 1949, he closed one to fellow novelist Anthony Powell: "It looks as if I may have to spend the rest of my life, if not actually in bed, at any rate at the bath-chair level. I could stand that for say 5 years if only I could work. At present I can do nothing, not even a book review. Please give everyone my love."
The essays in this collection include such keepers as "Such, Such Were the Joys," a long, harrowing memoir of Orwell's days at a British prep school; "Politics and the English Language," which examines the symbiosis of what it is possible to say in words and what it is possible to think; "How the Poor Die," a chilling piece of social reporting; and "Good Bad Books," in which he opines, "The fact that one can be amused or excited or even moved by a book that one's intellect simply refuses to take seriously is a reminder that art is not the same thing as cerebration."
Bringing together the public utterances and the private correspondence of a writer at the top of his game and the end of his life, this volume is worth reading for the individual pieces, some of Orwell's finest, as well as for the portrait it yields of a highly intelligent and principled man doing his best to play the hand fate dealt him with integrity and grace. --Joyce Thompson
How do series work?
To create a series or add a work to it, go to a "work" page. The "Common Knowledge" section now includes a "Series" field. Enter the name of the series to add the book to it.
Works can belong to more than one series. In some cases, as with Chronicles of Narnia, disagreements about order necessitate the creation of more than one series.
Tip: If the series has an order, add a number or other descriptor in parenthesis after the series title (eg., "Chronicles of Prydain (book 1)"). By default, it sorts by the number, or alphabetically if there is no number. If you want to force a particular order, use the | character to divide the number and the descriptor. So, "(0|prequel)" sorts by 0 under the label "prequel."
What isn't a series?
Series was designed to cover groups of books generally understood as such (see Wikipedia: Book series). Like many concepts in the book world, "series" is a somewhat fluid and contested notion. A good rule of thumb is that series have a conventional name and are intentional creations, on the part of the author or publisher. For now, avoid forcing the issue with mere "lists" of works possessing an arbitrary shared characteristic, such as relating to a particular place. Avoid series that cross authors, unless the authors were or became aware of the series identification (eg., avoid lumping Jane Austen with her continuators).
Also avoid publisher series, unless the publisher has a true monopoly over the "works" in question. So, the Dummies guides are a series of works. But the Loeb Classical Library is a series of editions, not of works.