Maira's Books

In January of 2005 I started this blog as a record of books I’ve read as I was afraid I would forget what I have read. I have often referred back to my own blog to remember a book's contents or see what I have read by an author. I have enjoyed passing my books on to friends or recommending books to read. I know I have missed recording some, but in general I try to keep up with what I have read or listened to.

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Location: Kalamazoo, MI, United States

I am a librarian at Waldo Library at Western Michigan University.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

1984 by George Orwell (1949)

Seems like everyone is rereading this classic in this current baffling political climate. Fake news and alternative facts fit in perfectly into Orwell's world. Winston Smith works in the Ministry of Truth, altering facts in past publication when those in power declare white is black, or when someone is arrested and killed, every mention of them is erased.

I couldn't help but try to think this through logically - so if they had to rewrite an article in a newspaper and it gets reprinted in some central location, what happens to all the other copies that were distributed elsewhere throughout the land. The other thought I had was that Orwell couldn't even imagine how easy it would be to dumb down the general public. Back in 1984 we still had newspapers, but now they are dying out and how many people read them anyway. People get their information from media (like the telescreen in the book) selectively - what they want to hear and we see now how easy it is to plant fake news.

Big Brother is Watching You! This definitely reminds me of all the surveillance done by the Soviets. One whole floor of a multi-story hotel in Riga was devoted to it. I always wondered how much staffing was needed to watch/listen to guests in all the rooms. Or to open all the mail, especially that coming or going outside fo the USSR. So again, I am wondering how they wired the whole world with surveillance - even out in the woods, and who did all the watching. I still think there are remote parts of the world they could not watch. But then again, think of now, we are all being followed through our electronic devices and online presence and surveillance cams are all over. 

I liked the appendix exploring newsspeak, the minimized language. Another phenomenon we are seeing today. I hope cool heads and intellect and reason prevail, but we have seen the destruction of intellectuals in authoritarian regimes before, and it could happen again.

I dislike reading about torture. I was freaked out in childhood when I read how Soviets tortured school kids in Latvia. I know it really happened then and happens now, but I am deeply opposed to it and hate it in books and movies. In 1984 it was awful to see Winston broken. Just like I never saw the Soviet purpose of deporting people, especially the young and old, and not providing citizens - the working class - with the basic necessities. This is coming up in Follet's Edge of Eternity. I've just started it, but one character already said: "How can we solve the problems (under Communism) if we can't even discuss them."

(Since I was listening to audio and did not have a cover image, I had to choose from the many that have been created for this book. This one looked familiar. I think this is what the book looked like when I first read it in the 1970's.)

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