Political Statements in Art

August 7, 2012 at 7:02 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Title: Animal Farm

Author: George Orwell (real name: Eric Blair)

Length: 80 pages

“Political Statements in Art” sounds a little scary, intimidating.  I grow weary of political statements.  But I am a reader, and among the list of most amazing authors of all time, though, great activists can be found.  Ayn Rand, Victor Hugo, Lewis Carroll, all had agendas when telling their stories, and whether you believe in their worldview, their stories were rather beautiful and undeniably artistic.  George Orwell is one of my primary examples of someone who managed to pull off making a political statement as a beautiful work of art, with the book 1984.  The book itself, is a long time favorite.  So when I saw that 1984 was on Bauer’s Well-Educated Mind: Novels list, I was very excited.  Yet, when the time came to read it, I found myself choosing Animal Farm instead.  Until this week, I had never read Animal Farm.

Although I had a general understanding of the novella, and the statement it was going to make, I was surprised when the animals all had real names.  Silly, I know, I just hadn’t expected that.  Not that I expected them to be called pig, horse, or dog, it was just one of those things I hadn’t thought to think about prior to reading the book.  Of course, I should have anticipated nothing less from Orwell, after all, the man was a genius.  In good literary form, Napoleon represents a villain, Boxer is strong, Snowball is the opposite of Napoleon, Squealer is the epitome of propaganda, and Mr. Jones is a typical neighbor you might love to hate – the human.  It is allegory at its finest.

Yet, I pretty much hated it.  How did this happen?  I adore Orwell! I do, I really do.  I just could not get into the anthropomorphism.  When I read animals personified to represent people, I find I don’t want them to be JUST like people.  I want my fuzzy mole to be a fuzzy mole who talks (Wind in the Willows), I want my mice to still live under floor boards and not have day jobs, even if they cook and clean (TumTum and Nutmeg), and so on.  Obviously, Orwell’s intent was for us to see ourselves as we are, “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which,” along with the dangers of communism and totalitarianism.

But who wants to be reminded of that?

Just kidding.  Truly, I see the merits of Animal Farm, and at another time I just may enjoy it.  But today, right now, this moment… I did not.  Still, I love Orwell.  I (usually) love to read his work, and (always) aspire to be more like him.  In Why I Write, he said:

“From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.”

Nothing speaks to me more.  I have been journaling, writing stories, and using the written word as my own catharsis my whole life, since before I could do much more than copy letters.  Perhaps I will never be the caliber of writer I’d like, but always and forever I shall write.  So because I write, also shall I read.

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Have You Read Goodell’s Zenith Rising?

November 30, 2009 at 6:30 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

As most people know, I am a shelfari.com addict.  It makes sense, as shelfari is a book site for book people and I am quite certainly a book person.  In my shelfari hunting and pecking for great reads and cool recommendations, I ran across an author named Michael Goodell who has since been a fun shelfari friend to engage in the banter of book talk.  One day, a group of us decided to read his book Zenith Rising (available for purchase on amazon) and discovered quite a treat.

I found Zenith Rising to be an interesting read and great first novel for Goodell.  It was slightly reminiscent of an old classic with a mix of John Grisham’s The Rainmaker, but unique and very much an original piece full of life and art and the raw thoughts of humanity.  I also believe that its a good shelf companion to Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.

Goodell has said about his work,

[…] one message I want people to walk away with after reading Zenith Rising, it would be the transformative effect that the pride of accomplishment and the sense of ownership can have on people who have never accomplished anything, (nor been told that they could or should), and never owned anything that wasn’t given to them. On that last point, when I was working with a nonprofit housing group, I was struck by the similarities between the lives of trust fund babies, and those of welfare babies. They both are born into lives with no demands and no expectations, and both engage in self-destructive behaviors, often culminating in wasted lives. I tried to point out that connection through some of the characters and their antics.

I think Goodell has succeeded in his goal, as most people I have talked to about the book feel a twinge of nostalgia towards the work as a whole.  I cried like a baby through chapter nine, the way I cried in Wall-E.  People should read this book before finishing school, high school or college, I don’t think it really matters which, just before they go out into the world. Inspire them to not let money go to their head, and not let their cities become pieces of crap. We’re always taught about the problems in other countries. Growing up, I always heard the glories of mission trips. Did we ever do activities in our own cities that were helpful? Not really. The closest we came was a yearly trip to Dallas four hours away. We got a lot done and it was amazing, but anything that can be done in Dallas could have certainly been done in Houston.

I truly believe that Goodell’s book has a bit of simple brilliance about it and cannot wait to read his second book which will also be set in the city of Zenith.

An excerpt from the book (pg.82-83):

One of the men stood with back to the viewer, in the lower center of the painting, where the mountain sloped down to a ridge, gazing out across a valley or vast plain stretching to the horizon. Often painted at dusk, with mist rising from the ground, or the sunset colors reflecting in the myriad streams snaking their way across the valley floor, the paintings gave the attorney an aching desire to step into that long lost world. He stood beside the adventurer at the edge of a precipice. The world unfolded at his feet, waiting for a man courageous enough to carve a life from its untamed wilds.


Information from the Zenith Rising Website:

From its stunning opening scene of a police raid gone tragically awry, to its heart-breaking conclusion, “Zenith Rising” tells the story of a dying city. Yet once that city was a world leader in manufacturing and technological innovation.

Once Zenith’s future was limited only by the size of its dreams.

Though the years stripped away its promise, the people of Zenith didn’t share equally in its decline. For some, the wealth garnered during the glory years insulated them from the city’s struggles. Others sought to suck the last bit of life, and profit, from the dying city, while a few, a lonely few, saw things as they were and vowed to change them.

Michael Goodell has given us a compelling tale ripped from today’s headlines. By means of a riveting plot and vivid characters, he presents a challenge every American must confront.

You can learn more about itat http://www.zenithrising.webs.com
The list price is $24.95.

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