21 August 2007

Animal Farm


I believe that literature is the highest form of art. A picture may say a thousand words, but a good book has a lot more than a thousand words. I'm no mathematician, but the way I calculate it: advantage - books.

Anyway, for the past few months I've been collecting antique literature in earnest. I was very pleased to acquire a first edition of George Orwell's Animal Farm, published in 1946. Reading a volume that was printed near in time to the author's first introduction of the work to the public really adds something to the experience for me. The pages seem livelier; their age creates the sensation in my mind that the author is talking presently. Recently I added a first edition Grapes of Wrath and an early edition of Ulysses by James Joyce.

I don't want to come off as flippant or sacreligious here, but does anyone else agree that Orwell's message in Animal Farm seems trite? I definitely understand why it was an instant classic; it practically defines Cold War propagandist thinking. I appreciate Orwell's craft for distilling the politics down to the pedantic. I think I understand his purpose and his method. All of it seems like it would have been quite useful back in the day. And by back in the day, I guess I should say that it was useful as recently as the first time I read the book in the mid-80's. This isn't a criticism of what the book was when it was first published or what it became as the politics of the Cold War evolved. The setting was a fine vehicle for taking the message out of the polemic and presenting it in the objective (however fabricated).

But I just can't see how the message is useful today. I turned page after page and the thought just kept coming that the message lacks a timelessness that all great literature possesses. Apples fall from trees. The earth orbits around the sun. Communism is a flawed civic philosophy. All useful ideas in their own time. But now we're on to other things.

3 comments:

Samantha said...

joey i don't want to "dumb down" your post by making stupid comments, so I'll keep it simple and say that I wholeheartedly agree with you on your book review. It also made me want to read an early addition of a classic.

emily palenske said...

I like that one of the labels for this post is 'pigs'. Next time I'm surfing through your site and want to know what you're philosophical stand on pigs is, this one will come right up. That really helps.

Lindsay said...

I second that to what Emily wrote!