The Multiple Meanings of Orwellian Xmas

George OrwellNominal social obligation toolk me to a holiday office party at a restaurant in one of those nouveau shopping malls built to resemble a faux urban center. The blind flaneur appreciates the fact that these places have storefronts and sidewalks but is not deceived by the surrounding sea of desultory parking lots. The place felt as phony as Main Street at Disney World. When I heard the jolly baritone of Burl Ives booming from discreet but ubiquitous little speakers on all the parking meters – I knew I couldn’t avoid Xmas muzak any longer – he sounded phony, too. The first thought to cross my unfettered mind: 1984.

So I took it as a sign from Big Brother’s Better Angel this morning when I heard OTM’s interview with George Packer about the other Orwell, the essayist who is one of this blog’s Tutelary Spirits.  Packer has edited two new volumes of Orwell’s essays. Santa, if you’re listening to me instead of Burl Ives, I’m getting these books for myself, thank you. But you could stop by and read them to me after you get laid off. I’ve got a fire in the wood stove and an overstuffed chair just for you.

Although “Orwellian” has become shorthand for the political manipulation of language, Packer argues for another meaning based on the clarity and probity of language in the essays. Listen here:

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