Was George Orwell just a dirty old man?

George Orwell
George Orwell

CRAIG BROWN: In our contemporary climate, would George Orwell be allowed a platform to speak up about anything?

THE DAILY MAIL 2/14/18
A week or two ago, I pointed out that Brexiteers and Remainers alike are convinced that if George Orwell were alive today he would be firmly on their side.

This raises another question. In our contemporary climate, would George Orwell be allowed a platform to speak up about anything?

In America, the wonderful comic writer Garrison Keillor has been silenced following allegations of improper conduct. The long-running radio show he created has been given a new name and old episodes are no longer being repeated; his weekly newspaper column has been cancelled; and a plaque in his honour at his old university has been removed.

 And what exactly was his crime? No one is saying. According to Keillor, he placed his hand on a woman’s back, meaning to console her after she told him of her unhappiness.

‘She recoiled. I apologised. I sent her an email of apology and she replied that she had forgiven me and not to think about it. We were friends. We continued to be friendly right up until her lawyer called.’

Nearly 70 years after his death, George Orwell is still regarded as one of our greatest essayists and novelists, but a trawl through his life and work by the Thought Police would, I’m sorry to say, unearth far worse.

Even his most sympathetic biographers acknowledge that, as an officer of the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, he paid regular visits to the waterfront brothels of Rangoon. After spending time in Morocco, he also confessed to his friend Harold Acton that he ‘seldom tasted such bliss as with certain Moroccan girls’.

A friend recalled Orwell saying that ‘he found himself increasingly attracted by the young Arab girls’. He confessed to the same friend that he told his wife, Eileen, he ‘had to have one of these girls on just one occasion’. Eileen agreed, and so he went ahead [ . . . ]

Full Story at: CRAIG BROWN: Was George Orwell just a dirty old man?

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Harry Potter Tourism Is Ruining Edinburgh

The city is full of horrible gimmicks about a celebrity wizard.

What happens when we die?” is one of the existential questions that humans have puzzled over since we first grew aware of our own mortality. Few of us can ever have contemplated that our name might be seized from our gravestone by a bestselling author, assigned to a fictional evil wizard and our final place of rest transformed into a vacuous bucket list novelty for fans of a popular fantasy franchise

That is, however, the fate which has befallen Thomas Riddell, who died in Edinburgh in 1806. His grave, nestled within the city’s Greyfriars Kirkyard, has become a pilgrimage for hundreds of visitors every day, who trek to the site to see an inscription that possibly inspired the naming of a character in a book.

Riddell’s name, you see, is a bit like that of Tom Riddle, otherwise known as the wicked wizard Lord Voldemort, the primary antagonist of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. On another tombstone nearby, someone has scrawled “Sirius Black, 1953 – 1996”, a reference to another series character [ . . . ]

Source: Harry Potter Tourism Is Ruining Edinburgh

In Search of Mary Shelley review: A life of monsters and men

Fiona Sampson gives the ‘Frankenstein’ author’s hard life a compelling immediacy

For 200 years, the freewheeling, chaotic lives of the Romantic poets, replete with sexual emancipation, elopement, teenage pregnancies and tragic death, have provided biographers with abundant riches. Mary Shelley’s illustrious parentage – her mother was the pioneering feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft, and her father political philosopher William Godwin – combined with her own literary achievements has ensured that her life is more comprehensively documented than most women of the era. In the latest addition to this canon, In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein, writer and poet Fiona Sampson points out: “It is the daughter of those famous thinkers that Percy [Bysshe Shelley] has fallen in love with.”

Sampson, who was editor of Poetry Review from 2005 to 2012, and is professor of poetry at the University of Roehampton, has an infectious curiosity for her subject and explores her life using motifs from literature, music and art. Astonishing scenes are laid before the reader in the manner of vivid tableaux: Mary, aged eight, hiding behind the sofa with her half-sister and begging to be allowed stay up late to hear Coleridge read to the end of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner; Mary, aged 16, sick and pregnant, lying in a boat with her head resting on Shelley’s chest as a storm rages around them. A born outsider whose arrival killed her brilliant mother, her childhood anxieties prompt a letter from her father, sent from Dublin, assuring her that he has no intention of giving her away.

Spectacular vernacular

Adopting an unconventional approach, Sampson writes in the vernacular and uses the present tense: “Building a life together isn’t heat of the moment stuff,” she remarks of Mary’s early months with Shelley. Mary is “four months gone” in pregnancy. They live “hand-to-mouth”. Mary is Shelley’s “enabler”. Her father is “a failure with the ladies” and “comes on heavily” to one. The celebrated sojourn at the Villa Diodati, which culminated in Frankenstein, is described as a “sleep-over”.

Although this might grate, such accessible language gives Sampson’s writing a compelling immediacy. Eyewitness accounts, letters and journal extracts are woven seamlessly into her narrative, while capsule biographies and historical detail provide context. On occasion, she indulges in unfettered speculation, exploring Continue reading