Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Naysayers Might Call it 'Perpetual' War But We (The Establishment) Call it: Being in it for 'The Long Haul'

Washington Rules: PORTEmaus Book Club Update: No. I

After the Aspidistra debacle (Look at how long it took to post the review... let alone finish the short novel), I decided to get a jump on Bacevich's book and be more "johnny on the spot" with the updates. I have been a little surprised by the book, namely the composition and Bacevich's writing style. I can say with much certainty that those few people that follow this blog will not read this book because it would be considered too "dense" or political.

True, you cannot have a book about policy without being political but honestly this book is not dense. So far, the book is more historical about the concepts and people who have forced concept of perpetual war to the forefront of the "Washington Rules." People like Allen Welsh Dulles (Brother of the "guy" (John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower's Secretary of State) they named the airport after... he also is considered to be the father of the Central Intelligence Agency) and the head of the Strategic Air Command, Curtis Lemay (A man most known for as the guy behind firebombing of Japan and the basis for the character of General Buck Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove)

Needless to say, this technique provides an interesting perspective on policy decisions. It puts more emphasis on how these decisions became entrenched into American politics. For those who are still unconvinced, consider this... I received my copy yesterday (the local library never received their copies evidently) and I read sixty some odd pages (out of two-fifty)... Couldn't put the sucker down, it also makes me want to apply to Boston University... But I digress.

This novel has everything... Class Warfare, Adult Situations, Disorderly Conduct and an Immortal Plant! PORTEmaus Book Club Review #II:

Keep The Aspidistra Flying... A novel by George Orwell.

Preface: I had the most frustrating conversation regarding Orwell (Like all literature talks, it stemmed from noisiness about the book I was reading at the time... The Scarlet Pimpernel) and how he was nothing more than hack, only able to plagiarize and incapable of an original literary thought. Basically, the clod asserted that 1984 was a rip-off of Zamyatin's We. What she neglected to note was that Orwell cited this novel as inspiration. I recount this story, merely to clear Orwell's name...

Say 'allo to Gordon Comstock, starving poet, shop keep and lone soldier in the war on Capitalism. Gordon is a complex character with few redeeming virtues and I doubt most readers will like him. His motivations for shunning money (however, he is not above accepting it from his poor and also starving sister) and "good" jobs would not resonate with them. He is staunchly anti-consumer and anti-Capitalist for the sake that neither behaviors have no intrinsic value in society.

Orwell surrounds Gordon with characters who cannot fathom the reasons for his actions. The horrors of Capitalism expounded by him is lost upon --those closest to him--Julia, Rosemary and even the self-described Socialist Ravelston (who is wealthy no less). All feel that Gordon should abandon his fools errand and obtain a job that pays. Of course, Gordon refuses to oblige them.

This is an interesting literary technique as the reader will inevitably side with the supporting cast and render Gordon's views taboo. At its foundation, Aspidistra is a novel that serves as means to awaken class consciousness... While simultaneously not offering a replacement for Capitalism. It merely seeks to expose Capitalistic values as being shallow and superficial.

In the end, the novel is one that illustrates the ills of Capitalism and how it adversely affects British intellectual development (I.e. Thoughts are "controlled" subconsciously through economics and this is illustrated through the reading habits or political views of the characters). There is a reason why this system is entrenched in Western society, it is because the individual creates a need for it. For even Gordon Comstock, avowed enemy of the "Money God" (aka Capitalism) realizes the futility of his battle and much like the protagonist in 1984, Winston Smith (Nice callback, it all comes full circle), he accepts the dominant system of control and obtains a "good" job. Of course, he has a reason for this but ultimately, Orwell utilizes Comstock as a means to illuminate that political or economic systems are nigh impossible to overthrow... Especially, when only one man answers the call to arms.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

All Good Things Must Draw to a Close: Aspidistra Closing Update No. 2

Aspidistra has drawn to a close and a good time was had by all. It was great to spend some time in pre-war Britain for a bit... Especially since I spent my nose firmly in dense course materials for the better part of July.

All grousing aside, the book did not disappoint the second time around. A rare occurrence since nothing lives up to the expectations or memories in our mind. Oddly enough, I have reread a couple of Orwell's books in my time and they don't disappoint on multiple readings.

With that said, the review should be posted either tomorrow or Friday.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Curse you money-god! How one live on two quid a week? Aspidistra update: number one.

So I suppose everyone is wondering (pins, needles and such) where I am at in Orwell's Keep the Aspidistra Flying... Especially since the first week of August is drawing to a close. I am about two-thirds of the way through it and I cannot believe it took me this long to reread it. Orwell has a way with presenting poverty stricken characters and pre-war (the Second World War) England for that matter.

Hopefully, I will be able to finish it by tomorrow or Sunday at the latest... Though, much like the first time I read it, I --kind of-- don't want it to end. Damn you Orwell and your literary prowess!