Throughout my childhood – and definitely in my adulthood – I have been very happy to identify myself as a bookworm. I read novels like they’re going out of style, often reading about two books a week. Whether I’m sitting at the beach, hanging out at the doctor’s office or waiting in the car as I pick someone up from an appointment, I always have my current book on hand. When one has a book, one never has any “empty space” in his or her day.
Okay, with all of that said, here’s an embarrassing revelation:
Back at the beginning of my teenage years – back when I was about, say, 14 years old – there was a brief period in my life where I wasn’t reading. Looking back, this realization is rather shocking to me, but it is what it is. Oh, I had plenty of excuses; I was too busy, I hadn’t found the right book, blah, blah, blah…but regardless of any justifications I might’ve had, the fact is that my lack of reading was severely depriving me of a very real, very deep personal joy, a joy that – until that point – had been a part of me since I was a little boy. And this, right here, is why I have a deep love of George Orwell. Why?
Because Orwell’s 1984 is the book that changed that.
Reading the book was a class assignment. I was interested, but not enormously so; at first, I entertained the lazy notion that I’d skim through, just enough to properly answer the test questions. I just didn’t have time to read the whole thing, you know ? I just didn’t have a…
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
…and just like that, I was hooked.
By the end of 1984‘s first chapter, I was swept away. Grabbed by the throat. Addicted. I dove into the pages, intensely devouring them in a way I never had before, with any book. I read through nearly half of the novel in a single day.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, I was a reader again.
Naturally, as the years have gone by, I’ve come to appreciate 1984 on an even deeper level than I did on my first read. The stark warning within its pages is a truly chilling statement on the weaknesses of humanity, and while there’s many fantastic dystopian novels out there, none of them are quite as horrifying…or as real. Watching the news, one almost feels as if people are getting ideas from 1984. A very scary proposition, indeed.
As a writer, George Orwell’s skills have always blown me away. There’s a scene toward the end of Animal Farm, where the pigs—and we all know who/what those pigs are representative of, right?—suddenly learn to get on their hind legs, stand and walk upright, like human beings. Under the pen of almost any other author, this scene would be laughable. Goofy. But Orwell sells it, somehow turning this silly scene into something out of a nightmare.
In the end, though, I’ll admit that there’s one Orwell piece that has inspired me more than any other. It isn’t a novel. It isn’t a story. It’s an essay, titled “Why I Write,” which every young or aspiring author should read. It’s like an anthem for all writers, everywhere; as Orwell describes his own life story in detail, we writers can’t help but find ourselves in it, identifying with his struggle, remembering our own difficulties. That essay can be found here:
The last paragraph, especially, is a thing of beauty. No one has ever said it better than Orwell…and most likely, no one ever will.