George Orwell has done for modern English what Geoffrey Chaucer did for Middle English. He has wielded it like Hatori Hanzo wields a sword. From his pen, it’s been flowcharted, coded, DE-coded, and programmed like a Microsoft applet. In exposing its quirks and the ill-use people make of it, he also glorifies it. It is a marvelous instrument indeed, to be so sought after and exploited.
I tip my hat mime-style to Russell Brand for the title idea. Not sure he’ll thank me for the nod, but that’s okay. (I’m here for you, Russ. Call me…)
So this bookie-wook I’m referring to is ANIMAL FARM. One of the most wonderful novels ever to be tagged "classic literature". It’s actually one of the more interesting classics. The version I have is this fantastically illustrated 50th anniversary version. It’s a lovely, large hardcover with a slipcover illustrated by Ralph Steadman — all ink splotches and crudely inked animals. I bet he was one of those kids in school who couldn’t have a pen in his hand without ink all over his fingers and clothes. Everywhere but on his paper.
Animals. heeheehee. They kick the farmer off his farm because he drinks like a pissed fish and forgets to feed them. Bwahahahahahaha. The animals take over the farm. chucklechucklechuckle. Phf phf phf phf… The PIGS take charge of the farm! AAAAAAHHH HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Stop! I’m dyin’ here! Sniff, sniff. Animals? Running a farm? And they have a flag???? PMSL ROFL. Damn. That’s some funny stuff right there.
That’s a kids’ story right there — a fable. But it gets real grown-up real fast. All those nasty, evil things that people do in the name of power and greed. The violence! The lies! By the end of the book, I was Benjamin. Nothing changed except for the worse. All the workers’ sacrifices were for nowt. For the sake of your emotional equilibrium, read it when you are feeling pretty good. The worst time to read it is when your life is in turmoil or you’re tired after a long day of being overworked and underappreciated.
If you like to linger over linguistics-laced literature, lift the lid on POLITICS AND THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE and WHY I WRITE.
PS: There are no good movie or animated versions of this novel. There’s an animated movie from 1950-something that’s serviceable, but nothing really good. The TNT version from 2002 doesn’t count. It’s like a CliffNotes version. Bleh!