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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Mon 01
Sep
2008

Orwell: Blogger

Writing So are you following the Orwell diary? Me, I was in a state of near-sexual excitement when I heard they were posting George Orwell’s 1938-1942 diaries online, seventy years after he wrote them. But that’s a whole other story; back to Orwell. Imagine! A peek at the intimate thoughts of one of the 20th Century’s literary giants: a man whose searing intelligence produced works of majestic satire, whose vision seems to only grow more relevant.

What crackling intellectual thunderstorms, I wondered, raged inside this man’s head? In 1938, with a world war a mere twelve months away, what socio-political clouds did he see brewing? I signed up to the live feed right away. Orwell blogging: was there anything the man didn’t anticipate?

First entry, August 9: Orwell relates how he caught a snake. I wondered briefly whether this was a reference to the Munich Agreement—the snake could be Chamberlain or Hitler, maybe, even Daladier. But no. He was talking about an actual snake. Well, okay: I guess if I caught a snake, that would be exciting. I’m not sure I’d blog about it. But still. I could see, I suppose, that even one of the world’s great thinkers might, upon encountering a snake, temporarily cease pondering the human condition to remark, “Ooh, snake.”

Next entry, then:

August 10
Drizzly. Dense mist in evening. Yellow moon.

That’s the whole thing. All right, so maybe my expectations were a little high. He wasn’t writing essays. He was writing for himself. And the important thing wasn’t the prose; it was the train of thought.

August 26
Hot. Dense ground-mist early this morning. Many blackberries now ripe, very large & fairly sweet. Also fair number of dew-berries. Walnuts now nearly full sized. Plenty of English apples in the shops.

Lots of apples, really? Well, that’s… good, I guess. You need apples. The more the better. Especially in shops.

August 28
Night before last an hour’s rain. Yesterday hot & overcast. Today ditto, with a few drops of rain in the afternoon. The hop-picking due to start in about a week.

Hops-picking. You can’t begin looking forward to that too soon. Got to love the delicious anticipation of looming hops-picking.

August 29
Overcast & chilly. Heavy rain last night. Dahlias now in full bloom.

This was when I decided to claw out my eyes to relieve the boredom. At least then something would be happening.

They say you should never meet your idols, because you’ll only be disappointed. Maybe you shouldn’t read their diaries, either.

(Or their web sites, ha ha, yes, very clever.)

Comments

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Machine Man subscriber Bushra (#36)

Location: Fremont, California
Quote: "www.caffeinatedmuslim.com"
Posted: 3919 days ago

I hadn't heard of Orwell's diary and as I first started reading your blog post, I was thinking how cool it must be to read his diary and gee whiz Max, thanks for introducing your readers to this! I mean, the guy wrote 1984, one of my favorite books. I would totally want to know what he wrote about on a day to day basis.

And then I read your whole post with the excerpts from the blog. And then I clicked on the link to the blog.

Turns out I really don't care what he wrote about on a day to day basis.

I'll try not to think about rainfall and fruit next time I read 1984.

Super (#600)

Location: The Netherlands
Quote: "I'm not deaf I'm just ignoring you!"
Posted: 3919 days ago

And read Animal Farm!

Kit (#850)

Location: UK
Posted: 3919 days ago

Yeah, but he still caught a snake, that's pretty cool.

towr (#1914)

Location: Netherlands
Posted: 3919 days ago

If I ever wondered about what the weather was 70 years ago, in whatever place he was staying, I now know where to look. One can say at least that much in its favour.

Hobbie (#1359)

Location: Cornwall, England
Quote: "There was a little man in his hair!"
Posted: 3919 days ago

"Caught a snake" and "blackberries now ripe" are better than some of the typical diary entries you'd see from more modern writers. I bet most of those would go along the lines of "had a wank" and "cried myself to sleep".

Nate Spears (#1454)

Location: Dallas, TX
Quote: ""Vengeance. Justice. Fire and blood." -Doran Martell"
Posted: 3919 days ago

Not to point out the obvious, but it's in the about page that

"Orwell’s ‘domestic’ diaries begin on 9th August 1938/2008; his ‘political’ diaries (which are further categorised as ‘Morocco’, ‘Pre-war’ and ‘Wartime’) begin on 7th September 1938/2008."

If you had only waited a little longer to put foot in mouth . . .

Simon (#3192)

Location: Melbourne
Quote: "I'd rather be arrogant than wrong"
Posted: 3919 days ago

Why not blog about catching a snake? I read a blog about renting chickens recently.

Trespassers Will (#2174)

Location: Puyallup, WA
Quote: ""...and if I laugh at any mortal thing, 'tis that I may not weep" - Lord Byron"
Posted: 3919 days ago

I've met my idol: Harlan Ellison. I wasn't disappointed; quite the opposite. The man is a fascinating and spellbinding speaker. I had the privilege of dining with him, and he really has charisma, intelligence and a certain rough charm.

I've met Max, too. He's not my idol, but then, he wasn't disappointing to meet, either. Keep writing, Max; "Jennifer Government" already rates as high with me as "Nineteen-Eighty-Four."

Linnea1928 (#2654)

Location: Rosemount, MN
Posted: 3919 days ago

Yeah, none too amazing right there, eh? But oh well, that just makes 1984 even more brilliant, y'know? 'Cuz he was fighting with his urge to describe the weather conditions, the color of the moon, and whether or not characters caught snakes, right? We sould be thankful his diary was so freakin' boring, otherwise maybe his books would have been. You said it, those diaries were for him. I suppose if my diary was published (eek!) it would probably be just as boring to the general public (I'm just saying he was a regular dude, too).

Melvin Smiley (#3200)

Location: Germany
Quote: ""Life is nasty and it seemed pointless to say so!""
Posted: 3918 days ago

So maybe Orwell as a Blogger isn't quite as cool as Max Berry as a Bloggerß (At least Orwell 'writes' something every day. Just kidding).

But the medium blog can be a very good way to portait or show historical events. Not only is there the excitment (when Orwell will catch his new snake) when the next entry will appear, but also a direkt link between the pas and the present.

I first encountered such a blog here: http://wwar1.blogspot.com/ where the grandson of William Henry Bonser Lamin publishes his granddads letters from WW I 90 years after their formulation. It's quite entertaining and in my opion a form to show history to the younger generation without big markers saying 'BORING' being kept up by them.
The Internet and Blogs can help to blow the dust from history and show it to the young generation of tomorrow.

(This became little bit to much like a sermon in the end. Sorry, but stay hear and maybe I'll speak about me catching a snake next time ;)

Sophie (#891)

Location: Devon
Posted: 3918 days ago

I reckon he predicted that the internet would be developed, and to stop someone trying to post his diaries on it, he made them really boring. And, in case they did end up being posted on a vast information highway, he made them about nature to try and encourage the computer-enthusiasts of tomorrow (today?) to go out and get some fresh air.
Or, he was just really obsessed with the weather. And fruit.

Amber (#3671)

Location: Oregon, U.S.A
Posted: 3918 days ago

The weather is so facinating though. Little recorded bits of the natural worlds breath and turning through the eyes and hands of a great minds perception. I think I will have to scurry myself over and sign up for this Orwell Diary feed.

What I think would be very interesting would be to maybe be able to see what parts of his writing works came into being, or began to, on these lovely days, how the air and seasons influenced his mood and creativity.

And, I think hops are wonderful. Definitly worth taking notice of.

Shola (#3468)

Location: Gypsy by Nature.
Quote: "We are all God's middle children."
Posted: 3918 days ago

I recken Orwell was high most the time and got paranoid, then wrote 1984 because he thought he was being watched.

Chris Hale (#3030)

Location: Adelaide
Quote: "As 'tis optional, I choose not to participate!"
Posted: 3895 days ago

Try Samuel Pepys' journal - much better.

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