Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tell People What They Do Not Want to Hear


Excerpted from Writer'sAlmanac.org

It's the birthday of the man who wrote Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949), George Orwell, born Eric Blair in a small village in Bengal, India (1903). He spent a few years living in poverty in London and Paris, working as a dishwasher and hanging around with hobos and prostitutes, and he wrote his first book about the experience, Down and Out in Paris and London (1933). Worried about what his parents would think of the book, he published it under the pseudonym George Orwell, the name he wrote under for the rest of his life.

He spent the last years of his life writing 1984 (1949), about a future in which England has become a totalitarian state run by an anonymous presence known only as Big Brother. He knew he didn't have much time left to write the book, so he wrote constantly, even when his doctors forbade him to work. They took away his typewriter, and when he switched to a ballpoint pen, they put his arm in plaster.

When he finished it, he told his publisher that 1984 was too dark a novel to make much money, but it became an immediate best seller. He died a few months after it was first published, but it has since been translated into 62 languages and has sold more than 10 million copies. With all of his work still in print in so many different languages, critics have estimated that every year 1 million people read George Orwell for the first time.

Orwell said, "The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns ... instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink."

And he said, "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

All That Matters Is Work


My eyes are almost bleeding with the banality of this copywriting bidness. Praise the lord for this lyric, "I drew 550 different shoes today/It almost made me faint," from Lou Reed about one of Andy Warhol's early illustration jobs before he became the master of fame and artifice in the most beautiful way. Also, thank goodness for lolcats.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bloomsday


Bloomsday!

(Courtesy of writersalmanac.org)

"Molly's soliloquy ends, "O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibralter as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Morrish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes."

Excerpt: "Chapter: Penelope" by James Joyce, from Ulysses.

It's Bloomsday, on which Joyceans all over the world celebrate the day in 1904 that the events of Ulysses take place on. It's named for the novel's protagonist, Leopold Bloom. Joyce chose June 16, 1904, as the setting for the novel, to commemorate the day he went on his first date with Nora Barnacle, his future wife.

The first Bloomsday celebration was in Paris 1929. For the centenary in 2004, Dublin hosted a five-month-long festival that included academic conferences, literary walking tours, exhibits, pub crawls, and also the feeding of 10,000 people — whom they did not charge — a full Irish breakfast of sausage, rashers, and Guinness, outdoors.

Dublin continues to have the largest Bloomsday celebration of any city in the world, and this year it will have lasted one week and included various walking tours of Joyce-related sites of the city, musical performances, pub crawls, and museum exhibitions. A few days ago, on June 12th, there was also the 15th Messenger Biker Rally, at which 50 people "in Joycean garb ... [rode] through the streets of Dublin on old messenger bikes retracing the steps of Leopold Bloom." There's the traditional Irish breakfast, as well as afternoon tea at Marks & Spencer, accompanied by songs of Joyce's era.

One of the hallmarks of Bloomsday celebrations everywhere is dramatized readings of Ulysses. Dublin has a long tradition of hosting celebrities, politicians, and international diplomats to do staged readings. Some other cities hold marathon Ulysses readings lasting up to 36 hours.
In New York this year there is "Bloomsday on Broadway," where they will perform the complete text of the chapter "Ithaca" and Molly Bloom's famous monologue from the concluding chapter, "Penelope."

For the past five years in the San Francisco area, the theater troupe Wilde Irish Productions has staged dramatic readings of Ulysses on Bloomsday, with an intermission that includes libations and concessions mentioned in the novel.

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