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The Unexamined Orwell

Univ. of Texas. Aug. 2011. c.400p. illus. index. ISBN 9780292725584. $45. LIT
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Can there be anything new to say about George Orwell? Longtime Orwell scholar Rodden (communication studies, Univ. of Texas, Austin) thinks there is, but his book largely recycles themes from two of his previous works, Scenes from an Afterlife and Every Intellectual's Big Brother. Yet he does add new perspectives in these 18 chapters (he calls them "reception scenes"), or case studies, on Orwell's literary afterlife. He discusses the work of five writers considered successors to Orwell, politically and culturally: Dwight MacDonald, Lionel Trilling, Irving Howe, Christopher Hitchens, and John Lukacs; he takes a close look at Orwell's impact in East Germany (how its totalitarian world replicated Nineteen Eighty-Four). In the final section, a bit of a miscellany, Rodden examines some of the Orwell myths that have endured (e.g., did Hemingway really rescue Orwell in Paris in 1945?—probably not), assesses utopian fiction, proposes how Orwell might have reviewed his own biographies, and, most interestingly, considers "The Life Orwell Never Lived?"
VERDICT Rodden's writing is always accessible to both scholars and general readers. This collection, however, does not break much new ground and will primarily appeal to those who collect everything written about Orwell. With extensive notes.

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