According to Signet Classics, publisher, copyright license holder of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1949, several other licensed publishers, the novel experienced 9,500 percent sales growth since the 2017 year start. Penguin alone reprinted 75,000 copies to meet online bookseller supply demand. Several sources attribute the spike to recent political speech upheavals. The newly invented term "alternative facts," used much by certain spokespersons, part attributed to the sales surge, is a malapropism of "newspeak," its contextures, an Orwell coin from the novel.
Per an Orwell essay, "Politics and the English Language," -- "Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."
A Hatrack member asked on the forums, paraphrased, what makes a narrative important. The question incited for me an investigation that has burnt many the midnight candle. Whatever goals a writer has, revenue is surely one that is important. In and of itself, that motivator will drive other, say, aesthetic considerations. Time and again, I discovered and came back to one conclusion: What matters to a target audience is what's important; that is, about the social-moral-emotional human condition with which the audience struggles. Certainly, Nineteen Eighty-Four gets to the crux, fears of overly authoritarian, corrupt government abuses.
Timelessness, timeliness, and current social relevance might or does incite and also reinvigorate a product's marketplace performance. 9,500 percent surge is wow! exponential now sixty-eight years on from debut publication.
Curious, too, how a careless term can incite political pushback against abusive politics, at the least, provide avenues that, ironically, offer strategies for political contention. What a gaffe: say some off-the-cuff remark and invoke all of Nineteen Eighty-Four's satiric social-political dystopia premises.
"The 'Thousand Flowers' Fallacy (also, 'Take names and kick butt.'): A sophisticated 'Argumentum ad Baculum' in which free and open discussion and 'brainstorming' is temporarily allowed and encouraged (even demanded) not in order to hear and consider opposing views, but rather to 'smoke out,' identify and later punish, fire or liquidate dissenters. The name comes from the Thousand Flowers Period in Chinese history when Communist leader Chairman Mao Tse Tung applied this policy with deadly effect."
The apocryphal Chinese proverb, curse, really, "May you live in interesting times," the times sure are interesting to a superlative degree. Interesting enough for Nineteen Eighty-Four's exponential sales gain at least.
So, yeah, write about these times that are timeless. I favor an agonistic pluralism that balances contentious factions' concerns through a match of worthy opponents' genuine fears and want-problems. Pit Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged with Upton Sinclair's The Jungle with George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four with Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Is that then Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange? Or another contestant of the main tournament?
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Imperialists say equality is for dungeon fodder. Capitalists say not in this lifetime or any other. Socialists say, hurray equality! so long as leadership lives like high hogs and the proletariat is equal in squalor. Objectivists say my way is the only way or else don't let the exit door smack you where you sit. Subjectivists say to each according to self-selection, only no bothers allowed of others privilege to exploit you suckers. Pluralists say, yes, created equal, though what matters for social stratification is genuine merit and responsible self-governance. Or as Kurt Vonnegut implies in Breakfast of Champions, think consciously, critically, responsibly for your self, or others will, to their detriment and yours, especially yours.
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Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" asserts that language loses meaning as it lives due to tired-out rhetoric's easy first resort. Orwell does what has been done across the ages: decries the latest new generation from a place of an older and more experienced, more learned age's acquired wisdoms. What Orwell does not note, though, is each generation is born new to all and sundry, to language at the least, if not John Locke's pure state of Nature to learn anew Natural Law.
The question Orwell raises though doesn't grasp is whether language, in fact, loses meaning from generation to generation while maintaining lively vitality. The "alternative facts" newspeak premise of Ninety Eighty-Four relies on, anticipates, demands even, language's communication diminishment from generation to generation and age to age, era to era. That's a broad plot hole; the narrative depends on that premise and offers no balanced counterpoint -- that exceptions do arise and, if of sufficient motivation, rebel against a trend. This diminishment premise is part true and part false.
The true part is that a new generation, after mandatory education, is not fully versed in whole for language aptitudes, only the essential fundamentals, with each generation's rare exceptions, amountable to a distribution curve, the Bell curve. Some few are less able, more are average able, some few are exceptional able. Parts of language do, indeed, fall out of education focus from time to time; however, the tenets of a language remain in circulation and accessible by motivated persons, more so at present than the past due to Digital Age's wider and deeper, convenient access.
For instance, a casual survey of an average high school English class observes that one in ten learners know and can identify the eight parts of speech: noun, pronoun, adjective, adverb, verb, conjunction, preposition, interjection. Fewer know or can identify sentence parts or types: subject, predicate, object, compliment phrases; simple, complex, compound, complex-compound, periodic, loose. Never mind punctuation; huh, commas boggle many, not to mention dashes and colons, etc. Unfortunately, too, more than a few instructors are about as language skilled as average students. First year college age pupils are about twice as versed in those rudimentary skills; underachievers are soon filtered out. English studies postgraduates with whole language skills number about two in three. Never mind other curricula's distributions.
The false part is what that distribution curve illustrates, especially the rare few who are of exceptional aptitude. Meta-able language users motivate further growth among a generation and overall over time, the efforts worth the risks and investments, for enhanced well-being. The few who are exceptional continue growth, too, countered by the few less able and the average able resist such growth. Nor, per se, is this solely applicable to language skills, all of life, really.
These are complication motivators; problem, some few are greater able to express their persuasions and "profit" from it, much to the bewilderment of those who are less able; want, the green-eyed monster Envy antagonizes greater growth efforts by the average able and outright denial by the few who have little rhetorical skill interests. That latter, that's why anti-intellectual movements arise to disparage the few who are able, and consequent as well suppression of responsible free speech.
Anyway, Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, cited, says it all, "we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
This generation, that generation, yonder generation, the ones before, the ones to come, decry each the other, assert the prior or the next generation, current generations messed stuff and junk up most-est, and have throughout human existence. The question of does language diminish over time is answerable through contrastive comparison of the literary opus and the collected composition of human existence expression.
Nope, language lives on generation to generation, though the pendulum swings, as the mortal coil cycles. At present, the pendulum is at a less literate extreme than a recent peak time, due to humanity is amid an evolution, as publication culture is, due part to Digital Age innovations, plus population pressures, etc. Improvised speech's ever present messiness -- ageless, timeless -- notwithstood.
A careful investigation of Orwell's works demonstrates that the writer acquired written-word language skills, over time, above the average because he was motivated to do so. He is fickle, though, of his regards for others' skills and motivations, or lacks thereof due to their lowered initiatives. Tel est la vie: such is the life. Nor is an "it is what it is" attitude intended therein, only that the Bell distribution ensures a few will exceed the average and nonetheless do their part, and as well that each generation entails its exceptions, averages, means, and underachievers who do their part, for good or for evil or any locus between extremes, for the common good, intended or otherwise.