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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936) by George Orwell

This is an example of an Aspidistra, a house plant that Orwell uses as a symbol of respectability and homage to the "money god."

Book Review
Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936)
 by George Orwell

  I studied in London my junior year of undergraduate, and while I was there I wrote a term paper on George Orwell.  One of the subjects that Orwell covers is the experience of being poor in a big city.  Most notably in his "tramping adventure" non-fiction work of Down and Out in London and Paris but also in Keep the Aspidistra Flying, which is a memorable fictional work about Gordon Comstock, an erstwhile ad copywriter determined to make it as a poet.  An "Aspidistra" is a houseplant that Orwell/Comstock uses as a symbol of lower middle class bourgeois conformity.   Keep the Aspidistra shows its age, but personally I've found Orwell's critique of the perils of poverty to be convincing, and though I hadn't read Aspidistra before,  Down and Out in London and Paris deeply influenced my personal decision to go to law school instead of "being a writer."

  Decades later, and I'm happy with the decision, and Aspidistra simply reminded me of why I made the decision in the first place.  Poverty is bad enough, but avoidable poverty is the worst.

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