1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story of a man that chooses to live in poverty
"What he realised, and more clearly as time went on, was that money-worship has been elevated into a religion. Perhaps it is the only real religion-the only really felt religion-that is left to us. Money is what God used to be. Good and evil have no meaning any longer except failure and success. Hence the profoundly significant phrase, to make good." (43)
Published on Sept. 9 2010 by Sam
3.0 out of 5 stars An early Orwell failure
Orwell repudiated his early novels, and it's easy to see why when you read "Aspidistra." In this novel, Orwell steered mostly clear of the Joyce-inspired purple prose that marred "A Clergyman's Daughter," but that's not enough to save it. The protagonist, would-be poet Gordon Comstock, toils in self-imposed exile and poverty in secondhand bookshops,...
Published on June 23 2002 by Christopher Schroen
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story of a man that chooses to live in poverty,
This review is from: Keep the Aspidistra Flying (Paperback)"What he realised, and more clearly as time went on, was that money-worship has been elevated into a religion. Perhaps it is the only real religion-the only really felt religion-that is left to us. Money is what God used to be. Good and evil have no meaning any longer except failure and success. Hence the profoundly significant phrase, to make good." (43)
The story starts off with Gordon Comstock, a man of about 30, who observes as people come and go from the bookstore in which he works; the descriptions are quite amusing. He is a writer, who is struggling to finish a work called `London Pleasures.' He wrote a book of poetry called `Mice' that did not sell very many copies, and the discounted copies that remain in the store have been untouched for the past two years. But Gordon is no ordinary bookseller; he has declared war on money.
Throughout the story, he thinks about his past, his poor genteel family. And of his sister, Julia, who was not given an education because all the money was put into Gordon's education. Of his old well-paying job that he left to realise his dreams as a writer, and what he soon discovered: the world is run by money. His girlfriend won't even sleep with him for the fear of having a child that they won't be able to afford. See the struggles Gordon Comstock faces throughout his war against money.
I enjoyed reading Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell; the story was amusing at parts. The insight of what Gordon observed was immense, of money being at the bottom of everything. The prose is magnificent, and like Orwell's other novels (1984, Animal Farm, Down and Out in Paris and London), this is one to be read.
The following are some quotes I enjoyed (may contain spoilers!):
"Money writes books, money sells them. Give me not righteousness, O Lord, give me money, only money." (9)
"Money, once again; all is money. All human relationships must be purchased with money. If you have no money, men won't care for you, women won't love you; won't, that is, care for you or love you the last little bit that matters. And how right they are, after all! For, moneyless, you are unlovable." (14)
"The first effect of poverty is that it kills thought. He grasped, as though it were a new discovery, that you do not escape from money merely by being moneyless. On the contrary, you are hopeless slave of money until you have enough of it to live on-a "competence," as the beastly middle-class phrase goes." (49-50)
"That is the devilish thing about poverty, the ever-recurrent thing-loneliness. Day after day with never an intelligent person to talk to; night after night back to your godless room, always alone." (64)
4.0 out of 5 stars The Tedium Of Poverty,
This review is from: Keep the Aspidistra Flying (Paperback)It being the 100th anniversary of George Orwell I decided to read one of his books that I hadn't gotten around to yet that was recommend to me a while ago, Keep The Aspidistra Flying. It is a novel about a poet who is trying to live outside the capitalistic system with abysmal results. He vividly describes the tedium and sordidness of middle class poverty, which differs from the equally demoralizing squalid poverty of the common classes.
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, well written and interesting,
This review is from: Keep the Aspidistra Flying (Paperback)George Comstock, living in 1930s London, wants to gain the benefits of a good life without working hard for them. So, with his own peculiar philosophies and ideas in his head, he rebels from the conditions of life he finds himself in, tries to pursue an easier life, becomes lazy whilst perceiving himself clever doing so, finds himself falling, broke each week, having to count his pennies, his life deteriorating; and eventually comes round - full circle - to accept the limitations that modern life generally forces onto most of us, whether we like the nature of the concrete jungles we live in or not...
This is an excellent book about life and the forces in life we are subject to - the fact that most of us have to be compliant cogs in a huge wheel of industry of some sort if we want to get on in life, whether we want to be or not, and if we try to step off the treadmill and leave the rat-race, it doesn't work well and we won't like where it puts us.
The book is a very good read, and well worth reading. It should be handed to any child who wants to be a rebel and thinks he can get by without working hard, to make him understand better some of the things that modern life involves and requires of us.
5.0 out of 5 stars An Early Orwell TRIUMPH,
By A Customer
This review is from: Keep the Aspidistra Flying (Paperback)One of the most underrated, least-known masterpieces I have ever read. I could not put it down! The Orwell brilliance that finally became better known in Animal Farm and 1984 shines forth peek-a-boo style in this book, easily the best of his earlier works. The most human book he ever wrote. Quite charming, quite ridiculously idealistic, in it's positive ending it is unlike the darkness he would write about later--though shades of it are there throughout. Oh but I love this book. One of my all-time favorites. Orwell was the best author of the 20th century, in my book.
2.0 out of 5 stars 'Slumming',
This review is from: Keep the Aspidistra Flying (Paperback)The book 'KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING' (c.1935, 1956) by George Orwell, i.e. Eric Arthur Blair, reads as a monologue which followed the life of one Gordon Comstock; a thirty year old poet working in a self imposed dead-end job, first at a small book store in 1935 London, then another poorer paying book shop after being fired for a night in jail.
It is a simply written and rather pointless novel littered with transparent metaphors; weak analogies; self-contradictions; blatant leftist doctrines; a whopping tautology; and a visible conclusion. George Orwell didn't seem to pay much attention to his own advice found in 'Politics and the English Language'.
The main character, Gordon Comstock, a struggling poet, lived in self-inflicted exile of poverty and decay to flee from the 'Money-God' and to rub elbows with his fellow working class heroes. Living in hovels, eating swill, falling into debt, dressing in tatters, working minimum wage jobs, allowing himself to become slightly malnutrishined, Gordon Comstock had romanticized the proletariat to the detriment of his health, social life, and career. He didn't seem to understand that these conditions are a dibilitating and not a fortifying aspect of working class life. Conditions despised by the very people he tried to emulate.
The simple Aspidistra, a potted plant, is Gordon's symbol of the middle class value system he detested. But the plant appears to be ubiquitous as it is found on every window sill of middle class family homes in England, from which Gordon is trying to flee. Then Gordon had a revelation that the middle class were the working class who had kept themselves respectable - had kept the Aspidistra flying. (This is a theme that occurs in later Orwell writings.)
Anyone with a college course in psychology would recognize that the character Gordon Comstock displayed symptoms of chronic depression; latent homosexuality; anxiety neurosis; bi-polar mood disorder; and obsessive guilt.
If, as some critics have suggested, this work is autobiographical of George Orwell, then the observation made by one of his biographers that, "The British are the only people who spend a lot of money to send their children to school to become emotionally damaged", was a process that afflicted George Orwell.
But who was this book written for? It would seem the author's fellow socialists. The author had to communicate his proletariat values somehow to his international fellow travelers! It always appears that socialists try to out-do each other's counter-bourgeois experiences. And KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING came across as a chronicle of leftist one-upmanship: the - I'm more working class than you are - attitude, by living shoulder to shoulder with the poor, then leaving when bored. (We call this 'slumming' in my working class neighborhood, and its annoying!). What is so original or novel about a struggling youth living his dream? KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING is more of a socialist polemic than an original story with a moral.
A good book to compare with 'KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING' is: 'WANDERER' by Sterling Hayden. Schooner captain Sterling Hayden gave a similar account of working class privation as he fled from a middle class background, then tramped around the U.S. following his nautical dream during the great depression, and was deeply influenced by American socialists of the time. Yet Sterling Hayden's poverty was real, not self imposed as Orwell's.
I found 'KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING' somewhat disappointing, but required reading as a fan of George Orwell.
5.0 out of 5 stars conforming a non-comformist,
This review is from: Keep the Aspidistra Flying (Paperback)Having completed "Keep the Aspidistra Flying", I have now read all of the novels of George Orwell. I can say with such authority that this one may be his best. George Orwell was, first and foremost, a Socialist and this book is his examination of being a Socialist in a Capitalist world. His hero, Gordon Comstock, is mired in a dead-end job that is just middle-class enough to require proper dress and behavior but not enough to enable him to afford any but the most essential living expenses. We sympathize with him. Or at least we do until we realize that his disdain for the pursuit of money has pointed him in the opposite direction. He is so anti-capitalist that he purposely keeps himself in his lower state. He quit a previous job because it paid too much. He won't strive beyond his current status because then he would enter a higher social status. He is convinced of the righteousness of his beliefs even though he has bled his sister dry "borrowing" money from her over the years. She "lends" him the money because the family always had such high hopes for this erudite young man. Gordon complains, to those that listen, that money is the root of all evil yet he is so ready to be victimized by it. He complains to his girl-friend that she measures him by his net-worth. This isn't true but he can't see that the problem is that HE is measuring himself by his own net-worth. He talks the talk but can't walk the walk. Well, money leads to one disaster of his own making and ends up as the solution to another "disaster" of his own making. I'm sure the prospective reader would prefer to read the book to see how his story ends so I won't go into any more details here.
This novel is enjoyable on many levels. I found myself, like most, getting upset with Gordon Comstock for his self-destructive "nobility". I was ready to rant and rave about it until I remembered my post-college Bohemian days and realized that I went through such a stage myself. I'm sure many of us have and so I think there is a personal connection that will appeal to a lot of readers. For pure literary merit, this is a hard 20th Century satire to top. Orwell scared a lot of people with his futuristic novels "Animal Farm" and "1984". He tried to indoctrinate many a reader with his Socialistic essays including his half-novel/half-essay; "The Road to Wigan Pier". I have a feeling that he was poking fun at himself in "Keep the Aspidistras Flying". Maybe that's why it works so well.
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Orwell's Best,
This review is from: Keep the Aspidistra Flying (Paperback)My God! Whatever happenned to good old clean writing where one regards the scene, action, events and characters at hand, contemplating universals and dissonent examples to reach some higher, usually very personal, truth?
Thank God there is still Orwell? This is one of his best. Forget the literary critic's remarks about this being a young Orwell. Who cares? It is honest, clean and offers a valuable example of life of working poor in England in the 1930s. When you contrast it to our present circumstance you see a lot that has changed and so much that has not; two pound / month was just not enough to survive, but to slowly starve to death. But Gordon will not yeild to the Money God that he has delcared war against. While he is waging this war we glimpse at his self-induced problems along the way.
The ending poses that critical question; Is he a hero? Was he conqueror of, or conquered by the Money God?
There are a few dated expressions which add colour to the book in my estimation. The trash readers of the times he refers to are unknown to most of us nowadays. But it does not matter. We know what he means. You could just as easily substitute Danielle Steel with the names of the other trash authors of the 1930s. We would then get his intent.
A great read. A true modern classic.
3.0 out of 5 stars An early Orwell failure,
This review is from: Keep the Aspidistra Flying (Paperback)Orwell repudiated his early novels, and it's easy to see why when you read "Aspidistra." In this novel, Orwell steered mostly clear of the Joyce-inspired purple prose that marred "A Clergyman's Daughter," but that's not enough to save it. The protagonist, would-be poet Gordon Comstock, toils in self-imposed exile and poverty in secondhand bookshops, constantly bemoaning his lack of pecuniary means, although there's a "good job" at the New Albion ad agency waiting for him to reclaim it. He's a thoroughly unsympathetic character, peevish and boorish, who treats his saintly girlfriend abominably, and the ambiguous ending, with Comstock getting engaged and rejoining the ad agency, caps it all off: is Orwell saying that Comstock has been defeated (returning shamefacedly to the realm of the "money-god"), or has Comstock finally come to his senses? We're never sure where Orwell's coming from here, and for a writer whose goal was to make us see the economic underpinnings of human behavior, this ambiguity is most un-Orwellian.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Neglected Romance with a Satire on English Respectability,
This review is from: Keep the Aspidistra Flying (Paperback)It is a bit difficult task to place George Orwell (pen name for Eric Aruthur Blair) in the history of the 20th century English literature. A novelist? A journalist? A critic? Or just a guy who loved propaganda? Whatever it is, he is and will be remembered as the one who wrote "1984" and "Animal Farm." Still, before he wrote these famous works, he wrote a pretty good book of novel, and that is what you're looking at now.
"Keep the Aspidistra Flying" one of the most starange titles you ever see, is about a "poet" (and formerly a copywriter for advertizing company) Gordon Comstock, who, with sudden desire to be free from the curse of money, left this good job and starts the life of an aspiring artist. As he had previously a book of his own poems published (the title "Mice"), and received a review from The Times Literary Supplement, which said "exceptional promise," why not pursue his way as an artist? And his next project "London Pleasure" which must be the next Joyce or Eliot will be completed soon, probably next month, or next year perhaps....
As his misadventure starts, Rosemary, his long-suffering but always faithful sweetheart, naturally is dismayed, and it takes a long time for him to realize that his happiness, whatever it is, is possible with her presence. But aside from the romantic aspect of the novel, which in itself is well-written with good portrait of independent Rosemary, the book attracts us with the author's satire on the middle-classness of England, which is represented by those ugly, die-hard aspidistra decorating the windows of every house. Gordon's loathing of respetability is deftly turned into a dark comedy that attack the parochical mind of some people, sometimes including Gordon himself. For instance, Gordon, no matter how poor and disheveled he becomes, never lets his girlfriend Rosemary pay the check of lunch because, in a word, it is not proper. Those who are interested in Englishness might find something amusing in this book, I assure you.
As is his satire, Orwell's English style is always full of power, brisk and lively, and never lets you bored. The only demerit is, as time has changed since then 1936, some names are no longer familiar to us; once hugely popular novelists like Ethel M Dell is mentioned with derogatory comments from Gordon, and her bestselling novel "The Way of an Eagle" is clearly treated as trash in Orwell's mind, but in the 21st Century whoever read them? Hence, some part of the book is lost on us if you don't know these names like Dell or Hugh Walpole, but never mind. Such part consists only small part, and if you don't get it, just skip it.
At the time of publishing, "Keep the Aspidistra Flying" was never a commercial success, and in Orwell's lifeime it was never reprinted, but these facts should not discuorage you from reading it. It is wickedly funny book that makes you, if not smile, at least grin not a little.
The book was made a movie in 1997 as "The Merry War" starring Richard E Grant and Helena Bohnam Carter. The film, more inclined to romance side of the book, is also a good one. Try it.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Man Cornered,
By A Customer
This review is from: Keep the Aspidistra Flying (Paperback)Fine read, full of Orwell's clear, precise prose. This absorbing novel depicts with harrowing clarity the main character's descent from struggling poet to a man stripped of his delusions, wallowing in a Dickensian dead-end job with weird, freakish people around him (brilliant evocation of pre-war, pre-bombed backstreet London) and finally to a kind of redemption, of the kind that that comes with age and experience; a stoical acceptance of life. Some of the supporting characters in this book are fantastic: the used book store dealer with long legs and short torso who resembles a pair of scissors when he walks, for example. There are many excellent flourishes, like the numerous advertizing slogans the main character constantly glimpses ("The Food That Is Shot Out Of A Gun!"), and his subsequent observation that advertizing is "the rattle of the stick in the swill-bucket.".
Orwell's 1930's novels, like this one, Burmese Days, and Coming Up for Air, are far better literature than the cold war cautionary tales Animal Farm and 1984. If you like the latter (and more importantly, if you don't), try Keep the Aspidistra Flying and the others. Orwell has a wonderful way of telling a hard tale and yet, through the sheer power of his solid prose, and unmystifying outlook on life, managing to uplift the reader, leaving him stronger and more positive (if less rosy-eyed) than before.
Lastly, if you've ever had any employment, paid or volunteer, involving dealing with the public, this is your book. Orwell's ongoing description of the strange shapes the public takes when you're forced to observe and serve them is one of the most wryly understated comic depictions in 20th century literature. Oh, the humanity...
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Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell (Paperback - Jan. 12 2001)
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