The Aspidistra Flies Again
Topic: Must Read
In an earlier post I mentioned that I’d acquired the Everyman’s Library volume containing three early novels by George Orwell: Burmese Days, Keep the Aspidistra Flying and Coming Up for Air. A couple of evenings ago I finished rereading Keep the Aspidistra Flying.
I was struck by how up-to-date this novel seemed, though it was written and is set in mid-1930s Britain. This was mainly due to two elements of the plot:
(1) Keep the Aspidistra Flying’s protagonist, Gordon Comstock, is a rather moth-eaten thirtysomething poet who is struggling to avoid falling into the money-trap—which is how he thinks of regular employment, marriage and family, home ownership, etc. Gordon is determined to live outside the world of money. But alas, he finds poverty to be something of a trial and at one point he's hectored by his family into taking a job at an advertising agency. There Gordon finds to his surprise and dismay that he has prodigious abilities in the copywriting line. Ultimately he must choose between poetry/poverty and advertising/prosperity. For anyone who has ever worked on the creative side of advertising, Orwell's depiction of Gordon’s agency, the New Albion, will seem very familiar indeed. And his mordant observation that advertising is nothing more than “the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket” will surely strike a chord.
(2) The plot device that drives the novel to its climax is the unplanned pregnancy of Gordon’s girlfriend, Rosemary. Living in squalor on subsistence wages, Gordon cannot support Rosemary and the child, and so the question of abortion comes up. After a visit to the public library, where he reads up on the development of the fetus and examines some pictures of same, Gordon rejects the option of abortion—which Rosemary was willing to endure if need be. Instead they agree to marry, and Gordon returns to a “respectable” job in advertising. Once again, and despite decades of pro-abortion propagandizing, this struck me as a realistic contemporary situation—far more realistic, indeed, than the smile-button view of abortion that’s promoted by the pro-choice mob.
Orwell has something of a somber reputation, and the good-natured, tolerant attitude of Keep the Aspidistra Flying may come as a surprise to some readers. He remains for me one of the most interesting writers of the twentieth century—for his political prophecy and also for his rare appreciation of the ordinary, the dutiful and the stiff upper lip.
Posted by tmg110
at 11:53 AM EDT