Archive: May 3rd, 2003

Pynchon on Orwell

Following up on my earlier post about Newspeak, here’s a superb essay by Thomas Pynchon on 1984 which is part of the introduction to a new edition of the book published next week. In it, Pynchon finds hope in the very inclusion of the Newspeak Appendix at the end of the book:

"We remember that at the beginning, we were given the option, by way of a footnote, to turn to the back of the book and read it. Some readers do this, and some don’t - we might see it nowadays as an early example of hypertext."

"From its first sentence, "The Principles of Newspeak" is written consistently in the past tense, as if to suggest some later piece of history, post-1984, in which Newspeak has become literally a thing of the past - as if in some way the anonymous author of this piece is by now free to discuss, critically and objectively, the political system of which Newspeak was, in its time, the essence."

Read the whole thing. It’s a great piece of writing by one great writer writing about another great writer’s greatest piece of writing. Phew!

Obey Day

I feel I must apoligise to American readers for my earlier entreaties for a happy May Day.

Little did I realise that although May Day began in America as a celebration of workers’ rights, there have been attempts since the 1930s to disassociate the day from those pinko commie scum.

The latest attempt was made this year by George W.Bush who would like to rename May 1st Loyalty Day.

You can’t argue with that now, can you? If you do then I guess that would be disloyal.

Such clever use of language would seem to indicate that some people have been boning up on Orwell’s Appendix to 1984.

The Liberty Committee, for instance, are legislating for the United States to withdraw its membership of the UN. They call this piece of legislation the "American Sovereignty Restoration Act".

If I were a politician, I think I would give all my legislation titles like The "Every Time You Vote Against This, A Kitten Dies" Act or The "Think Of The Children! Won’t Somebody Please Think Of The Children!" Act.

For service above and beyond the cause of Newspeak, though, you can’t beat the USA PATRIOT Act. Not only does it have a name that’s straight off Big Brother’s whiteboard, it’s also an acronym.

I don’t know who comes up with that stuff but I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s the same people who gave us "friendly fire" and "collateral damage".