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All Art Is Propaganda by George Orwell
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All Art Is Propaganda

by George Orwell

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The essays in this collection were originally published over several years in several different contexts. Yet, they tend to circle around a couple themes - low brow British culture (boys' weeklies, raunchy postcards, 'good bad books') and the relationship between writing and politics. The pieces with the greatest staying power address the second, including his essay 'Politics and the English Language', which I recall from an undergraduate writing course in the late 1980s, and a wonderful 1946 essay on censorship, titled 'The Prevention of Literature', in which Orwell contrasts the obvious threat of repression under a totalitarian communist regime with the more subtle effect of economic concentration in capitalist countries: 'any writer or journalist who wants to retain his integrity finds himself thwarted by the general drift of society rather than by active persecution.'

The essays on popular culture are perhaps of historical interest - I hadn't known about the boys' weeklies or many of the authors Orwell describes as writers of good bad books, and I'm not likely to have an occasion to use most of this information - and certainly not to seek out those mostly forgotten authors to read them, after hearing Orwell's critique. But Orwell himself writes so well that even these essays were a fast pleasure to read, and the exposure probably improved my own writing for at least week or two.

It's worth noting that all the essays in this collection are critical essays; a number of his narrative essays are collected in a companion volume, Facing Unpleasant Facts. ( )
  bezoar44 | Jun 30, 2014 |
Collection of critical essays. Some very short notes on what stood out.

Some positive reviews of contemporary literature and film. Henry Miller stands out in his view for rediscovering aspects of personal life. He gives Rudyard Kipling a good drubbing for his sadist tendencies, although Orwell also despises T. S. Eliot's poetry, however, and calls him 'Petainist'.

Also discusses the role of popular culture - the bland and repetitive nature of boy's action magazines, cheesy sex humor and pornography.

Boys' Weeklies - http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/boys/english/e_boys
The Art of Donald McGill - http://www.orwell.ru/library/reviews/McGill/english/e_mcgill

Orwell's essays on politics, propaganda, and the use of language are among the best of the lot. Here they are. Enjoy.

Can Socialists Be Happy? - http://www.online-literature.com/orwell/895/
Propaganda and Demotic Speech - http://www.wordpirate.com/Below Decks/The Grammar Monkey/Propaganda and Demotic Speech.ht
Good Bad Books - http://george-orwell.org/Good_Bad_Books/0.html
The Prevention of Literature - http://orwell.ru/library/essays/prevention/english/e_plit
Politics and the English Language - https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm
Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver's Travels - http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/essays/politics-vs-literature.htm
Lear, Tolstoy, and the Fool - http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/lear/english/e_ltf
Confessions of a Book Reviewer - http://orwell.ru/library/articles/reviewer/english/e_bkrev
Writers and Leviathan - http://orwell.ru/library/articles/leviathan/english/e_wal

( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
Orwell's writing is often a treat. Novels are my favorite literary art form, but I definitely love a good essay over a good short story. Somehow have gotten to this point in my life without reading "Inside the Whale," Orwell's fascinating take on Henry Miller. Also some good essays on comic postcards and the emergence of brutal crime novels. A really handsomely made book, too. ( )
  Carl_Hayes | Mar 30, 2013 |
I very nearly gave this "a respectful four stars", but if we're being completely honest here, I did skip the last few essays and skimmed over a few others. While thorough in their analysis and argument, the essays on Eliot and Kipling did not do very much for me; literary criticism becomes hard for me to digest after a while. What I really liked in this collection were the essays about reading in general, and the ones where Orwell seemed to be having more fun. I particularly enjoyed "Confessions of a Book Reviewer" (I have it in the back of my mind right now as I write my review), the essay on Charles Dickens (which made me want to get back to Bleak House sharpish!), and "Propaganda and Demotic Speech", which chronicles the difficulties of rendering spoken English effectively in print and breaking away from clichés and trite formulations. (This one is also in the back of my mind as I write.) If you like Orwell's novels, give his essays a try. Also recommended for English majors. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Feb 27, 2012 |
Orwell the Pamphleteer

This is a collection of essays edited by two academics with a short preface and introduction from each. There isn't a common thesis among the essays, but they loosely correspond to the notion that all art (really they mean literature) is propagandistic.

Surely some of the essays stretch that notion a little too far. In fact, one could argue that several of the essays don't even related to the title of the book. Nevertheless, Orwell is still great to read, a unique and wonderful wit to his writing. An example would be: "Political writing in our time consists almost entiresly of prefabricated phrases bolted together like the pieces of a child's Meccano set" (p. 262).

Orwell is strongest when he writes about totalitarianism, and class-consciousness. But the first chapters on Dickens are also very thought-provoking. His famous "Politics of the English Language" is also included. Though the editors claim that essayists like Orwell are a rare breed, one could argue that such political satire has simply transitioned into a different medium.

Overall, this is a great book from one of the twentieth-century's most influential writers. While most of the material is probably accessible by other means, they are conveniently packaged in one neat book here. ( )
  bruchu | Apr 5, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0151013551, Hardcover)

As a critic, George Orwell cast a wide net. Equally at home discussing Charles Dickens and Charlie Chaplin, he moved back and forth across the porous borders between essay and journalism, high art and low. A frequent commentator on literature, language, film, and drama throughout his career, Orwell turned increasingly to the critical essay in the 1940s, when his most important experiences were behind him and some of his most incisive writing lay ahead.

All Art Is Propaganda follows Orwell as he demonstrates in piece after piece how intent analysis of a work or body of work gives rise to trenchant aesthetic and philosophical commentary. With masterpieces such as "Politics and the English Language" and "Rudyard Kipling" and gems such as "Good Bad Books," here is an unrivaled education in, as George Packer puts it, "how to be interesting, line after line."

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:37 -0400)

As a critic, George Orwell cast a wide net. Equally at home discussing Charles Dickens and Charlie Chaplin, he moved back and forth across the porous borders between essay and journalism, high art and low. A frequent commentator on literature, language, film, and drama throughout his career, Orwell turned increasingly to the critical essay in the 1940s, when his most important experiences were behind him and some of his most incisive writing lay ahead. All Art Is Propaganda follows Orwell as he demonstrates in piece after piece how intent analysis of a work or body of work gives rise to trenchant aesthetic and philosophical commentary. With masterpieces such as "Politics and the English Language" and "Rudyard Kipling" and gems such as "Good Bad Books," here is an unrivaled education in, as George Packer puts it, "how to be interesting, line after line."… (more)

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