In editing these two volumes, George Packer reminds us that the author of the novel 1984 wrote brilliant essays.
Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays
, compiled and with an intro. by George Packer. Harcourt
, $25 (336p) ISBN 978-0-15-101361-6
Best known for his late-career classics Animal Farm
, George Orwell—who used his given name, Eric Blair, in the earliest pieces of this collection aimed at the aficionado as well as the general reader—was above all a polemicist of the first rank. Organized chronologically, from 1931 through the late 1940s, these in-your-face writings showcase the power of this literary form. The range of subjects is considerable, from “Shooting an Elephant” to remembrances of working in a bookshop (“The combines can never squeeze the small independent bookseller out of existence...”); from recollections of fighting in the Spanish Civil War to culinary oddities such as a “Defence of English Cooking” and “A Nice Cup of Tea”; to the broad-stroke masterwork of boarding-school irony, “Such, Such Were the Joys.” New Yorker contributor Packer (The Assassins’ Gate
) keenly assembles and introduces this selection, bringing into high relief Orwell’s range of experience and committed humanism, showing how, as Orwell put it, “to make political writing into an art.” (Oct. 13)