on April 5, 2009
This is a collection of essays edited by two academics with a short preface and introduction from each. There isn't a common thesis among the essays, but they loosely correspond to the notion that all art (really they mean literature) is propagandistic.
Surely some of the essays stretch that notion a little too far. In fact, one could argue that several of the essays don't even related to the title of the book. Nevertheless, Orwell is still great to read, a unique and wonderful wit to his writing. An example would be: "Political writing in our time consists almost entiresly of prefabricated phrases bolted together like the pieces of a child's Meccano set" (p. 262).
Orwell is strongest when he writes about totalitarianism, and class-consciousness. But the first chapters on Dickens are also very thought-provoking. His famous "Politics of the English Language" is also included. Though the editors claim that essayists like Orwell are a rare breed, one could argue that such political satire has simply transitioned into a different medium.
Overall, this is a great book from one of the twentieth-century's most influential writers. While most of the material is probably accessible by other means, they are conveniently packaged in one neat book here.