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George Orwell

When I read this book a few years ago I missed some of the allusions Miranda pointed out.

Message 1 - posted by Miranda (U2203130)                             Jul 7, 2006
I've just been reading Coming Up For Air and would like to recommend it for anyone who's familiar with 1984. Of itself, as a novel, I don't really think Coming Up For Air is much cop. What *is* fascinating about it, however, is the way you can see Orwell working through the ideas that would surface in 1984, in his vision of the future that would come after the coming War (the book was written in 1939 but before the outbreak of war) - the totalitarianism, repression, violence, the cult of the leader etc.

Even more interesting in some ways is the way you can see individual scenes being played out that will later reappear in 1984: the most obvious one is where George Bowling, the protagonist, attends a lecture - the lecturer is a prototype duckspeaker, the lecture itself a clear rehearsal for the 3-minute hate of 1984. The stray bomb that hits a greengrocer's shop scattering cabbage leaves and leaving behind a severed leg, recalls the rocket bomb that falls near Winston Smith, following which he kicks away a severed hand into the gutter "as if it were a cabbage leaf". There are lots more examples, even the horrible sausage that Bowling eats (or rather doesn't) recalls the awful food served up in the canteen of the Ministry of Truth.
You can really see the cogs turning in Orwell's mind and that makes the book a very fascinating read for fans of 1984.
Message 2 - posted by Scousedog (U1706613)                         Jul 7, 2006
I've mixed views on this novel but I would never go as far as to say it's not much cop. As a novel it didn't really sit together for the most part. It didn't seem to get the blend of plot and ideas right and so at times it did seem to be just a platform for his political ideas. Also I really disliked the childhood reminiscences at the beginning of the novel.
However, I find it hard to criticise anything by Orwell too much. The novel is brimming with insight and ideas. Yes, the similarities with 1984 are striking, and it does seem like a petrie dish for his great novel at times, but there is also a lot more to the novel, as we see Orwell tackling themes of ageing, change and resistance to change, and how we adapt to progress (if it is progress at all).
In all, not one of my favoute novels by any stretch but certainly a worthwhile and thoughtful read.
Message 3 - posted by Evie (U1708016)                                   Jul 7, 2006
I will read this novel at some point - though I have yet to read 1984, surprisingly, since I really do like Orwell's writing, and have had 1984 on the TBR shelf for a year or two. It is always interesting, I think, to see writers toying with ideas in early works that become more developed in their later work.
Message 6 - posted Miranda (U2203130)                                  Jul 7, 2006
It was maybe a bit flip to say it's not much cop, but really i didn't think it was that interesting in its own right. If it had been written by someone else, I wonder if we'd still be reading it today? And yes I agree he certainly goes on too long about Bowling's childhood fishing experiences - I couldn't help thinking he was really writing about his own enthusiasm here, at rather excessive length.

A couple of other interesting things, I thought, were his certainty about the inevitability of war (albeit predicted for 1941) and the march of the modern world - the concreting of the countryside, the small shopkeepers put out of business by big chain stores, even Bowling's nostalgia for the sweets of his childhood, no longer available, which could be written virtually unchanged today.
I find Orwell's concentration on these aspects pretty prescient.

ERmmm.......that wasn't me, was it?   My memory is now great guide to past events but I *really* don't remember reading that!

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