GEORGE ORWELL’S WORDS


Through wordsmith.org I subscribe to A Word a Day for daily emails with a new word each day with a theme.  Examples are words  that are eponyms or words that sound dirty but aren’t.  A few weeks ago it was words from George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four(published in 1949),  that have become part of our language.   I recall reading  his dark novel in high school and thinking how very far into the future the year 1984 was, why, I’d be an old woman of 40 years.  Today we are 34 years beyond that doomed year,  and I have become a crone.  Below is a photo of my worn copy of the book; I think Daughter used it when it was required reading for a class.

Here are five of Orwell’s words featured and defined for that week:

NEWSPEAK:  Deliberately ambiguous or euphemistic language used for propaganda.

UNPERSON:  A person regarded as nonexistent.

BIG BROTHER:  An authoritarian person, organization, government, etc., that monitors or controls people.

DOUBLETHINK:   An acceptance of two contradictory ideas at the same time.

OLDSPEAK:   Normal English usage, as opposed to propagandist, euphemistic, or obfuscatory language.

My old paperback copy has this afterword by Erich Fromm and begins with this paragraph.

“George Orwell’s 1984 is the expression of a mood, and it is a warning.  the mood it expresses is that of near despair about the future of man, and the warning is that unless the course of history changes, men all over the world will lose the most human qualities, will become soulless automatons, and will not even  be aware of it.”

Fortunately, the soulless world of Winston Smith (main character from the novel) has not become reality.  There have been dark days and some parallels can be drawn from that world and some events even leading up to 2018, but the course of history has surely changed.   Here are some of my humble observations.

Let’s start with the most commonly quoted word from 1984, Big Brother.  Some would think that we already have a Big Brother in the form of federal government imposing rules, regulations and laws and tracking us and  strongly distrust the government.  Internet and social media could be considered as Big Brother the way our smart phones track us as well as Facebook, Twitter, etc. that track our locations, likes, friends and shopping habits.  And what of television?  Can we escape that glowing eye from home or almost anyplace we go?  And security cameras seem to be everywhere.

Newspeak is often used by those who want to put a certain spin on a statement or situation.  Those in power appear to be the most skilled at newspeak.

The unperson could be those without a political voice whether by poverty, circumstances, gender, place of birth or sexual orientation.  The Black Lives Matter movement quickly comes to my mind.

Our current President of the United States of America appears to be skilled in doublethink as he often says one thing and then acts in a completely different way to support, oppose or propose a policy.  There ought to be an Orwellian word for the way he tweets.

Oldspeak was the language of truth and honesty.  Lies were not treated as the norm and truth was not labeled as fake news.

Where did the inspiration for this post come from?  Perhaps I just wanted to write one last 500-word essay on George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and convince myself that a negative Utopia did not become a reality in 2018.  Or has it?

BOOKS AND BIBELOTS


BEDSIDE READING

Fascism, a Warning,  Madeleine Albright
A Restless Wave, John McCain
Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry
A Higher Loyalty, James Comey

WRITERS I HAVE DISCOVERED VIA THEIR BLOGS:
The Contract, John W. Howell & Gwen M. Plano
Plover Landing, Marie Zhuikov
Dancing with the Sandman, L.T. Garvin
A Cry From the Deep, Diana Stevan
Wish You Were Here, Adventures in Cemetery Travel, Loren Rhoads

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From Wikipedia

From wikipedia

BIBELOTS OF THOUGHTS
About a week after the city of Portland announced Stage I of water restrictions based on the lake levels and where we get our water from, our rain gauge measured almost eleven inches in two days.  We did not get that much rain from Hurricane Harvey!  Perhaps we toasted Chac, the Rain God, one too many times.  My rain barrels and jugs are full but the effects of the rain won’t last long with the summer heat.

Husband ordered a portable solar generator, Goal Zero, and a couple of solar lights.  The generator will power a few things to keep us going  and it is not noisy like a gas generator.  We may have not another hurricane for several years, but we are prepared this time and it will help if we lose power in an electrical storm also.

“Courtesy is contagious.”  That statement (in red letters) was taped inside a cabinet door in our kitchen by my father as I was growing up.  Whether it was meant for his three daughters or my mother, I never knew nor questioned it.  Today it seems that discourtesy has become an epidemic in the United States.  It appears to have its source at the top with a president that began setting the tone as he campaigned.  Winning the highest office in the land did not change that attitude.

Surely we can disagree  strongly, passionately, loudly and truthfully; protest and speak out, yet
display respect and civility!

 

Let us be thankful this Independence Day 2018 for all that we have as Americans.  May we never take for granted the freedoms and rights that we have.

PRINT OR E-BOOK?


As an old bibliophile I have clung to my paper pages, full bookcases and stacks of books scattered throughout the house.   I have no trouble reading magazine articles, news, blogs that I follow, newspapers and anything else I might come upon while surfing the Internet. But I want to read books in old-fashioned print.   Husband bought a Kindle and bragged about the books he could download anytime without having to order and wait until it is delivered or drive to find it at Barnes and Noble or Half-Price Books.

My beautiful picture

 

“Not me,” insisted, “I want to hold my books and turn the pages.”

“You can turn the pages on a Kindle.  The pages are numbered and you don’t even need a bookmark.  It remembers where you shut down and comes right back,” he insisted.

I collect bookmarks and have a basket full of them.  No, I would never want a Kindle or other reading device.

Husband continued to enjoy his Kindle so much that he upgraded to a new one.  He told me it was a really good deal.  I could have his old one if I wanted it.

“No, thanks,” I declined.

“Well, if you change your mind, let me know and I will set it up for you and even an Amazon account so you can buy books,” he remarked eagerly as he set it down on a stack of books by my nightstand.  I do most of my reading at night.

Some of the blogs I follow feature writers who have published their own books and are available in print and e-books.  Some are e-books only.  Was I missing out?  Perhaps.  So I decided to try just one or two e-books.  What could it hurt?  I wouldn’t be giving up print books.

The first e-book I bought was John W. Howell’s action thriller, “His Revenge.”  John lives along the same Texas coast as I do.  I like an action books occasionally and this book delivered action, a little sex and a hero, John Cannon, that we can all cheer for as he tries to say do his best for the United States.  John’s books can be found on Amazon in paper or e-book and you can follow him on his blog, Fiction Favorites, for daily fiction and fun.  He is working on the third book in this trilogy featuring John Cannon.his revenge

The second e-book I bought was a novelette by an author from the  western coast of Canada, Diana Stephen.  Her novella, “The Blue Nightgown,” caught my attention with its fifties-style pattern for a cover.  Set it is set in a Winnepeg, Canada boarding house in the 1950s, it reflects the mood of the time when men and women tried to remain within the boundaries of their roles and where sex was often hidden away in a bureau drawer. It is available in e-book only on Amazon.  Her latest novel, “A Cry from the Deep,”  is available on Amazon in e-book or paperback.   You can find out more about her on her blog, Diana Stevan.

blue nightdown

To my surprise I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading both of these books even though they were read on my Kindle.   Perhaps I had been a bit of a literary snob.   Reading was reading no matter what form  it has evolved into over time.  Now we have choices.  And isn’t the reading the important thing?  However, print books are still my first choice!

For now I will go back to a print book I have started, “Hitch-22, A  Memoir”,  by Christopher Hitchens, and perhaps fall asleep in bed and lose my place.

WOULD YOU TRAVEL WITH YOUR AUNT?


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Cover of “Travels With My Aunt,” by Graham Greene,The Folio Society edition with introduction by John Mortimer

Henry Pulling, the main character in Graham Greene’s 1969 novel, “Travels With My Aunt,” chose to travel to Paris with his septuagenarian Aunt Augusta.  The book begins in London at the funeral/cremation of Henry’s mother, Aunt Augusta’s sister.  He had not seen her since he was a child. Graham Greene, author of darker novels – “The Power and the Glory” for example – actually had a lighter side to him as displayed in this funny novel.  Check out two of my posts, Graham Greene and the Anglo-Texan Society  and Next Year in London!

Henry, who never married, had retired early from a bank due to bank take-over and spent  his days quietly cultivating dahlias.  When Aunt Augusta invites him to travel with her first to Brighton and then to Paris and Istanbul via the Orient Express, he accepts.  Henry is rather shocked at his aunt’s frank attitude toward sex at her age and is not sure if what she carries across borders in her luggage is legal.  Travel on the Orient Express awakens Henry’s passion when he meets an unconventional young woman.

Oh, yes, before they set out on their travels, the police take away the urn containing the ashes of Henry’s mother because they suspect it may contain a strong mixture of cannabis. The adventures end in Paraguay.  It is pure entertainment all the way!

Illustration by John Holder

Henry, Aunt Augusta and Wordsworth -Book illustration by John Holder

GEORGIA O’KEEFFE IN RED, WHITE AND BLUE


The Flag

“THE FLAG” 1918
by GEORGIA O’KEEFFE

A profoundly humane treatment of O’Keeffe and all the people who figured prominently in her long life.” 
Los Angeles Times

     The above quotation from the Los Angeles Times is on the cover of Roxana Robinson’s book, “Georgia O’Keeffe:  A Life.”  Before I read it recently I did not know that much about this artist’s personal life other than that she was married to the photographer Alfred Stieglitz and spent her last years in New Mexico.  Robinson begins with the first O’Keeffes who emigrated from Ireland and settled in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin in 1848 and ends with her death in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1996 at the age of 98.  In the pages between she reveals the life of the artist sometimes most know for her large flowers and her vision of the Southwest that included animal skulls.

     For her time even as a young woman she was quite liberated as she pursued her education and art and dressed as she pleased.  She moved to New York where she studied art and met Alfred Stieglitz for the first time.  For a time she taught art in Amarillo, Texas and apparently fell in love with the desolate landscape.  A few years later she fell in love with Stieglitz.

     From reading this biography it seems to me that O’Keeffe struggled to balance her need for independence and her passion for creating art (she called it her “work) with the obligations of married life.  She and Stieglitz had no children together so she did not have to factor in the responsibilities of motherhood.

     Although her marriage was unconventional, perhaps she was no different from women today who have to make choices about career, marriage and children.  It takes a strong woman to make the difficult choices; Georgia O’Keeffe must have been a strong woman.

Georgia O’Keeffe
1887 – 1996

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Galileo, Sun and Wine


“Galileo’s Daughter” by Dava Sobel

An elegant  book jacket drew me to this book at first as I pulled it from a bargain shelf at Half Price Books.  “A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love,” proclaimed the subtitle.  How could I resist?

The book jacket explains:  “Of Galileo’s three illegitimate children the eldest best mirrored his own brilliance, industry, and sensibility, and by virtue of these qualities became his confidante.  Born Virginia in 1600, she was thirteen when Galileo placed her in a convent hear him in Florence, where she took the most appropriate name of Suor Maria Celeste.  Her loving support, which Galileo repaid in kind, proved to be her father’s greatest source of strength throughout his most productive and tumultuous years.  Her presence, through letters which Sobel has translated from their original Italian and masterfully woven into the narrative, graces her father’s life now as it did then.”

While Sobel writes of Galileo’s scientific beliefs and his clash with the Catholic church, the book primarily focuses on the relationship between a father and daughter as they share and support the struggles of their lives via letters:  the father in his very public life and the daughter in her very sheltered existence.  The reader gains insight into both worlds.

Here is a quote from the book that gives Galileo’s description of wine.

Light held together with moisture.”

My Favorite Bibliophile…


A couple of years ago Husband and I took a road trip to North Texas to check out family history on my father’s side.  We visited small country cemeteries, a beautiful old courthouse, a log cabin and Uz, a town near where my grandfather was born.  All that is left of Uz is a state historical marker.  My great-great-grandmother, who is buried in the area,  kept a diary from 1876 to 1888.  Today I think she would have been a blogger and would have definitely embraced Facebook.  But that may be another post!

Since we were so close, I had to visit Archer City, where my favorite bibliophile – Larry McMurtry – lives.  He was born near Archer City and grew up in the area where his father ranched.  The first stop was the Royal Theater.

Crone at the Royal Theater

As a not-so-famous-bibliophile myself I love to visit used bookstores wherever I travel as I seek bargains and rare treasures, so a visit to Archer City was perfect.  The small town (population 1848) is home to Booked Up Inc., a series of bookstores owned by McMurtry.  They are right in downtown Archer City near the courthouse and scattered around in several buildings.  There is a guide to tell you what type of books are in each building.  The day we were there it was quiet and we usually found that we were the only customers.  When I found my first treasure, “The Golden Man” by Victor W. von Hagen, there was not even a sales person around  to take my money.  Then I noticed something posted by the front door directing me to go to building number one to pay.  It was like being in someone’s personal library with books stacked high on shelves (ladders for he brave) and organized loosely by category.  There were no other literary related items for sale.  And we would have to go elsewhere for coffee.   The other buildings were similar:  some smaller, some larger but all smelled of warm dust and old paper.

The last stop was building number one where indeed  I was able to pay for my treasures and encountered Leo, the bookstore cat.  Dare I think that since Larry McMurtry does maintain a home in Archer City not far from his book stores that he might actually be in town and stop by?  Alas, a sign read, “When will Mr. McMurtry be here?  At his whim.”  I confess that I did persuade Husband to drive ever so slowly by his home before we left town.

I have read  many of his books, fiction and non-fiction, and  it would be hard to choose my favorites, but these would be at the top of my list.

“Lonesome Dove”
“Terms of Endearment”
“In a Narrow Grave”
“Duane’s Depressed”
“Texasville”
“Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen”

Recently I was surprised to learn that at age 72 he had married the widow of fellow author and friend, Ken Kesey, on April 29,  2011.  James McAuley interviewed him last year for an article in The New Yorker titled “Larry McMurtry’s Dying Breed:  A Visit to Archer City.”

McMurtry, in addition to being a novelist, essayist and screenwriter,  has been a book collector for many years and has bought out the stock of several old and prestigious  bookstores.  In one non-fiction book he includes a chapter titled “Book Scouting” and explains it this way.

I’m sure that I’ve had as much pleasure in the hundreds (or maybe thousands) of bookshops I’ve been in, going along row by row and shelf by shelf looking for a title or an edition that I’ve never seen, as my father did culling and inspecting the many cattle herds he bought from.  The process of selection, weighing the qualities of various animals, in his mind, was a work that required judgment, sophistication, experience, and – if you will- taste.

And that, essentially is what I try to bring to the composition of my book shops: taste, which if applied persistently will result in an interesting mixture of books, none of which is undesirable or unappealing.”

McMurtry has often written about the changing world of the dying breed of the cowboy and co-wrote the screenplay for “Brokeback Mountain.”  He also hints that  book collectors may be a dying breed as well.

How we read is changing.  I like the digital world for blogging, news, articles, shopping, reservations/tickets and some of the social media, but I must have my books.  They are comforting to me.  I can take them with me anywhere and anytime, touch them, make notes in them, mark them with a favorite bookmark, stack them on the floor or make room for one more in a book shelf.  When I give one as a gift, I write a dated message inside.

Perhaps I am a dying breed also.  Maybe I am in good company!