George Orwell
Why I Write
Book Review by Author/Illustrator Ross Anthony

This small paperback is made up of 4 essays: Why I Write, The Lion and the Unicorn, A Hanging, Politics and the English Language.

Why I Write:
(My favorite of the 4 essays.) It's personal, warm (in a British way), has the feel of honesty, and is full of interesting tidbits from Orwell's specific experiences to his gangly generalizations. Here is one of the later that tickled me: "The great mass of humans are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they abandon individual ambition - in many cases, indeed, they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all, and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money."

The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius.
While I enjoy Orwell's depiction of the Brit in the detail of everyday particulars, it not only goes long, but also becomes a tad gross on generalization. In fact, dare I generalize, Orwell, while indulging in the generalization, doesn't often show any self-questioning. This essay became a political work that put me to sleep. He makes his point over and over without the feeling of progressing. I simply could not finish it. So, my review is unfair.

A Hanging
(My second favorite of the 4 essays.) Great telling. It brings the reader into this morbid happening in an emotive way. The inclusion of the contrastingly giddy dog makes this piece powerful, compelling and memorable.

Politics and the English Language:
Amusing, but repetitive. Orwell grandstands for 18 pages. He could have (and actually did) make his point in just 2 pages. Also, not surprisingly, his generalizations more than border on pompous. And while I'm sure, without a doubt, that my many articles contain passages of bad writing, by his definition and my own, so do his. In fact, within the same essay, Orwell himself commits the same writing sins for which he'd just scorned others. For instance Orwell shames works where "the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun constructions are used instead of gerunds." That made me laugh. "Noun Constructions" is itself a "Noun Construction." By his own rule, Orwell should have written "Constructing Nouns." And the most telltale sign of the passive voice "IS" the use of the word "IS." My point, if you're going to shun writers for using the passive voice, then don't use the word "IS" in that sentence.

Orwell advises, "Never use a …figure of speech you are used to seeing in print." He then lists examples of phrases that "bad writers" use to save the ends of sentences from anticlimax, such as "greatly to be desired, deserving of serious consideration, etc…", but the kicker is that he ends that very sentence on an offending "and so on and so forth."

To help avoid pomposity, he ought have admitted some guilt himself, instead of simply pointing fingers. That said, Orwell does make some good points. His 6 "Nevers" really do make great tips for writers.

Read more Book Reviews by Author/Illustrator Ross Anthony.

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Copyright © 1998-2023 Ross Anthony, Author - Speaker - Solo World Circumnavigator In addition to reviewing films and interviewing celebs at, traveling the world, composing great music, motivational speaking, Mr. Anthony also runs his own publishing company in the Los Angeles area. While traversing the circumference of the planet writing books and shooting documentaries, Mr. Anthony has taught, presented for, worked &/or played with locals in over 30 countries & 100 cities (Nairobi to Nagasaki). He's bungee-jumped from a bridge near Victoria Falls, wrestled with lions in Zimbabwe, crashed a Vespa off a high mountain road in Taiwan, and ridden a dirt bike across the States (Washington State to Washington DC). To get signed books ("Rodney Appleseed" to "Jinshirou") or schedule Ross to speak check out: or call 1-800-767-7186. Go into the world and inspire the people you meet with your love, kindness, and whatever it is you're really good at. Check out books by Ross Anthony. Rand() functions, Pho chicken soup, rollerblading, and frozen yogurt (w/ blueberries) also rock! (Btw, rand is short for random. It can also stand for "Really Awkward Nutty Dinosaurs" -- which is quite rand, isn't it?) Being alive is the miracle. Special thanks to Ken Kocanda, HAL, Jodie Keszek, Don Haderlein, Mom and Pops, my family, R. Foss, and many others by Ross Anthony. Galati-FE also deserves a shout out. And thanks to all of you for your interest and optimism. Enjoy great films, read stirring novels, grow.

Last Modified: Wednesday, 29-Feb-2012 13:49:11 PST