Great American Read List discussion

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Stand-Alone Novels > September 2018—1984 by George Orwell

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message 1: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Aug 14, 2018 10:59PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
The winner for our September novel is 1984 by George Orwell!

1984 by George Orwell

To all who voted—thank you!
To everyone—I hope you'll participate and read this selection for our monthly book club.
For those who do—share your thoughts as you read, please!

Spoilers are allowed; add a considerate warning if your comment includes any so members have the option to skip.

Feel free to begin reading it early, if you'd like, and start the discussion at your leisure.

message 2: by Tasha (new)

Tasha Unfortunately, this is one I'm not really interested in reading. I read it in school and don't think I enjoyed it then. ;)

I hope those reading it enjoy it though!

message 3: by Tasha (new)

Tasha Good to know, Loretta. It's so true, we definitely appreciate things differently as we age, lol. ;) Unfortunately, there is just something about this book that rubs me the wrong way and I just can't bring myself to pick it up again. :)

Trina  (trinanycolbrown) Haven’t read it! Very excited to get started.

message 5: by Andrew, moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Andrew (andyhuey) | 332 comments Mod
I read this a long time ago, so rereading it now seems like a reasonable idea. (The first time I read it might actually have been in 1984, come to think of it...) I think I still have the paperback somewhere in my apartment. If not, I can probably find it at the library or just buy a new copy.

message 6: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Sep 15, 2018 07:40AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Some info on this novel and author:
Eric Arthur Blair, pen name—George Orwell, was born June 25, 1903 in Motihari, Bihar, British India.
He died January 21, 1950 in London, England at 46 years old.
1984 (originally titled Nineteen Eighty-Four) was first published in 1949.
genres include: dystopian, political fiction, and social science fiction
explores: censorship, futurology, nationalism, and surveillance
GoodReads rating: 4.16—78% rated it 4 or 5 stars

This will be a reread for me. Like Andrew, I read it so long ago that I don't remember it well. It's definitely a good time to refresh my memory. My copy is 294 pages. I will begin September 1ˢᵗ.

I'm glad that you'll be contributing to this discussion, Loretta!

That's quite all right, Tasha. If you change your mind, please let us know. In the meantime, I hope you continue to enjoy The Sirens of Titan!

Excellent point, Loretta! I know I appreciated Great Expectations more rereading it as an adult, than I did as a teenager.

I'm happy to hear that Trina, and I'm looking forward to your thoughts!

You're such a willing participant, Andrew. You make me smile!

message 7: by Tasha (new)

Tasha Lavan, I have finished Sirens and will post my thoughts over in that thread later this week. :)

Bethany | 123 comments I read Animal Farm in high school and HATED it. I have been hesitant to pick up 1984 because of that. I am willing to give it a try due to it being on the list, but no guarantees for this one. I've also been a bit unmotivated to read this month because I've not been feeling well, so I'll try to work on my motivation, too.

message 9: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Aug 18, 2018 07:26AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
I've read Animal Farm multiple times. The last was a few years ago when some youngsters in my family had a holiday break at Christmastime. I read it aloud after dinner each night. It definitely kept their attention. For a novella, it packs a punch! I remember how captivated they were, with wide eyes, hanging on every word. I'm sure they'll never forgot that story.

I'm glad you're giving 1984 a try, Bethany! Hopefully, you'll enjoy it more so than the aforementioned.

Feel better, please!

Bethany | 123 comments I'm sure I'll feel better in due time. My morning sickness just tends to be last-all-day sickness. All I've wanted to do is play on my phone and watch bad tv. With school starting again, I'll get back to a more normal schedule.

Cindy  | 35 comments I am another person that read this well over 10 years ago. I would like to read it again and refresh my memory. I remember the first time I read this, it scared me.

message 12: by Andrew, moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Andrew (andyhuey) | 332 comments Mod
I'm about two thirds of the way through my reread of 1984. I last read it in the early eighties, possibly in 1984. (Of course, it had a bit of a resurgence in popularity in 1984, for obvious reasons...)

I think this book still holds up pretty well, though in some ways the world has gotten a lot more complicated than it was when Orwell wrote this. I think that when I first read it, this still seemed like a plausible (though unlikely) future to me. Now, it seems more abstract, and less like an actual possible future. There are still lessons to be learned from it, but the real world is so much more complicated now.

There are a few scenes later in the novel that I remember finding really terrifying back when I first read it. I'm wondering if they'll still affect like they did back then, or if I'm too old and jaded now...

I also took the opportunity to revisit the Eurythmics soundtrack to the 1984 movie that came out in 84. Now that sounds pretty dated these days. (Though there are some pretty nice bits in it that hold up well, like the song "Julia.")

message 13: by Andrew, moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Andrew (andyhuey) | 332 comments Mod
I finished reading this today, on the train. I posted a review here.

One thing I'll add here is that the last third of this book is still pretty terrifying for me. I see maybe a little more black humor in the book than when I first read it. Some elements are clearly absurd. But the whole (view spoiler) still scares me!

message 14: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Sep 04, 2018 05:53AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Bethany—are congratulations in order? If I'm assuming incorrectly from "morning sickness," please accept my apologies.
I'm curious what your "bad TV" consists of. I'm watching the current season of Big Brother, which is an amusing coincidence considering we're now reading 1984. It's entertaining, for sure!

I'm thrilled that you're rereading this selection, Cindy, and happy that you think it's amazing so far!

Andrew—I'm always amused when you refer to yourself as "old and jaded," haha!
I've never seen the movie adaptation of 1984. Did you like it; would you recommend members watch it after reading the novel?
Thank you for linking your review! I enjoyed reading it, especially the last paragraph.
You're inciting definite feelings of tension and suspense stating how the last third of this book has affected you (not a bad thing), because I cannot remember it well. I think I read it at too young of an age for it to properly impact me at the time.
I'm going to skip your spoiler until I've finished my reread (thanks for hiding it, by the way!), and come back to it.

I'm on p. 57—at 19%.
Wow. This book is disturbing, and unnerving. It elicits feelings similar to thriller and horror genres. The story swallows you up and it moves quickly. The word "unperson" gives me the creeps!
But I'm loving it, and so glad I'm rereading it!
Yesterday, it sparked multiple conversations throughout the day with family members. We talked about totalitarian regimes (and researched which are in power today), how free America is compared to other countries, freedom of speech, and so much more. I'm grateful that this book has already encouraged thought-provoking discussions!

message 15: by Tasha (new)

Tasha These comment are tempting but I've got too much else going on in regards to reading this month. I'll keep reading the comments bc maybe I'll consider it down the line.

message 16: by Andrew, moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Andrew (andyhuey) | 332 comments Mod
Lavan wrote: "I've never seen the movie adaptation of 1984. Did you like it; would you recommend members watch it after reading the novel?"
Yeah, it's pretty good. I saw it back when it first came out, which I think was also in 1984. Here's a link to Roger Ebert's review. John Hurt plays Winston Smith.

message 17: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Sep 05, 2018 02:09PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
I completely understand, Tasha!
I'm reading 5 books at the moment:

Doctor Faustus—for another group
A Storm of Swords
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (rereading)—designated read-on-the-deck-in-the-sun book
1984 (rereading)
Lonesome Dove

I don't usually read this many at once. I hope to finish at least 3 by the end of September. I'm also behind two books in another group, but I'll get to them eventually.
I hope you change your mind!

Thank you for the link, Andrew!
It sounds good. I'll look for it after I've finished reading.

I'm on p. 108—at 37%. This part: (view spoiler)

... really bothered me. I was grimacing the entire time while reading it. It made me extremely uncomfortable. As an avid reader and one who enjoys writing, I cannot fathom a world in which this is a reality. Even to envision it makes my stomach clench in opposition. (I don't consider this bad. I prefer that a book makes me feel in some way.)

This story is not only relevant, but imperative.

message 18: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Sep 09, 2018 07:50PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
I'm on p. 209—at 71%.

As Winston reads parts of the book I can't help but feel increasing alarm. The way Orwell's mind worked! It's insanity. It's genius. It's like driving by an accident—you don't want to look. You know it's going to be bad and upset you, but you look. That's how this book is. It's horrifying, yet fascinating. You don't want to believe that any form of government like this could ever have existed or could ever come to power in the future, but it already has to some degree and is possible. You want to be ignorant, but it's dangerous to be.

With every page I read I'm reminded of how lucky I am to be an American. Our country is not perfect by any means, but I am grateful for the freedoms that we have.

Cindy  | 35 comments I agree. This book is like driving by a car accident. I just knew that Winston was headed for trouble. He trusted too many people. I was on edge waiting for the moment he would be arrested. In that type of totalitarian government you just knew somebody was watching or listening.

Cindy  | 35 comments I forgot to add this. Joseph Stalin’s most famous psychologist once said that is just human nature, everyone has a mortal fear of something. He said once I find it, people will confess to anything. Even crimes they did not commit. I thought of room 101. I am afraid of heights.

message 21: by Lavan, moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Thank you for sharing, Cindy, especially that bit about Stalin. That's interesting!
As far as fears go—I have three.
Blood. Not fake blood. Gore in movies and such doesn't bother me regardless of how excessive it is, but real blood does. I could never have a career in medicine. Nope.
Being trapped in a car under water. Driving over bridges makes me uneasy, either as the driver or as a passenger. Ferries are even worse. This is due to a recurring nightmare. Thankfully, I haven't had it for a long while.
Confined spaces underground, especially if there's water. No idea how this became a fear of mine, but whenever I see it on television it bothers me a great deal. I'll never go spelunking, that's for sure!

I finished 1984 yesterday.
Andrew—I just peeked at your spoiler. Yes, that part is terrifying!

The whole of Part III reads like a psychological thriller. That last third of the book is quite possibly the scariest I've ever read in fiction. I can't think of another novel that comes close for me.

This is such an important book. I think everyone should read it at least once.

Bethany | 123 comments I'm near the end of part 2. There is a line that is repeated--"We are the dead." It makes me think of the poem "In Flanders Fields" by John McRae. It was written during WWI and would likely have been known by Orwell:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

    That mark our place; and in the sky

    The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

        In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

    The torch; be yours to hold it high.

    If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

        In Flanders fields.

I'm curious how the message of this poem influenced Orwell while writing. It is curiously both pro and anti war, so I thought I'd add it here and get your thoughts.

message 23: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Sep 16, 2018 06:20PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Thank you for sharing this poem, Bethany!

I'm embarrassed to admit that I've read little poetry in my lifetime so I didn't recognize this one, but I can see the connection you've made.
It's hauntingly beautiful!

Bethany | 123 comments This is one of my favorite poems. I teach it every year, along with a choral adaptation of the poem, which is very haunting.

message 25: by Tasha (new)

Tasha I'm not much for poetry either.

message 26: by Tasha (new)

Tasha I gave it a shot, maybe not a fair shot at less than 10 pages, but it's just not a book I'm in the mood to read. Maybe another time I'll feel differently.

message 27: by Tasha (new)

Tasha Yep, that's true. :)

message 28: by Lavan, moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Thank you for giving 1984 a try, Tasha!

I hope you return to it one day.

message 29: by Tasha (new)

Tasha Maybe I will, but honestly, I don't think so. Nothing about it calls to me, unfortunately.

Cindy  | 35 comments Tasha wrote: "Maybe I will, but honestly, I don't think so. Nothing about it calls to me, unfortunately."

I felt that way too, nothing really calls to me. The characters are repulsive. The book just seems constantly gray. I kept reading. Maybe that is how Orwell intended it. If this story had a happy ending it would not work well for the story. This is a second read for me. I had the same reaction of being scared and horrified.

message 31: by Tasha (new)

Tasha It's not my thing. I prefer politics not be in my reads for pleasure. I don't always mind more depressive stories but they have to have something within that I can appreciate or enjoy. I don't see that happening with 1984, ever. ;)

Trina  (trinanycolbrown) Loretta wrote: "My first reading of 1984 was back in high school. It bored me to death plus I felt that the story was way beyond me. When it came time for my book report and test, I ran out and got..."

Loretta, I totally agree with you. If the intention was "dark and scary" it was a home run because it was definitely that.

Also, a few of my friends have said the same thing. They read it in HS but upon rereading (with mature eyes) it held more meaning. I didn't read it in HS but wish I did so I could compare my teenage view with my adult view but I'm happy we read it. I enjoyed it very much.

message 33: by Toni (new) - rated it 5 stars

Toni Gary I really enjoyed 1984-think every American should read it. But I also really enjoy black humor and psychological thrillers, even some good horror and sci-fi. I did not know that he got the title from the year he wrote the book (1948) until I read about the author. We’ve all heard that “Big Brother” is watching-I had to explain this reference to a 30-year old a couple of weeks ago. I recommended this book to her.

message 34: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Oct 03, 2018 01:23PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Cindy—my reread of 1984 was scarier than my first-time read of And Then There Were None. Although I'm only 25% through the latter, so that may change. 1984 is psychologically horrifying (it definitely strikes a nerve) while And Then There Were None is thrillingly fun.

I like political fiction if it's well-written. I read Cancer Ward: A Novel earlier this year and thought it was fascinating.

Thank you for sharing your experiences with this list book, Loretta!
I agree with you and Trina. This novel isn't meant to make readers feel comfortable or good. Orwell does an excellent job of making them feel the opposite.

I'm glad you enjoyed it, Toni!
I will definitely recommend 1984 to family and friends who've not read it yet.

message 35: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Jan 19, 2019 07:48AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
I'm currently reading Milan Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting for another group and read an excerpt that immediately reminded me of 1984:

" 'You begin to liquidate a people,' Hübl said, 'by taking away its memory. You destroy its books, its culture, its history. And then others write other books for it, give another culture to it, invent another history for it. Then the people slowly begins to forget what it is and what it was. The world at large forgets it still faster.'
... is it true that the people will be unable to survive crossing the desert of organized forgetting?" — p. 218

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting was first published in its original language, Czech, in 1979 and later translated into English in 1980 (1984 was first published in 1949). It's semi-autobiographical and it's genres include black comedy, magical realism, and metafiction.

I thought this was worth sharing.

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