52 in 52: Nineteen Eighty-Four

First, Some Excuses

Yep, I’m definitely behind on this. One of these days I’m either going to stop overcommitting myself (unlikely), learn to set more realistic goals (somewhat less unlikely), or just accept that I may not meet every goal I set (most likely).

This actually started out as an experiment I started back in January when I still had an hour and a half commute to and from my internship. I was messing around on my phone instead of reading like I had planned to do, so I told myself, “Maybe reading on your phone will work!” I have iBooks and Kindle on my iPhone and iPad, the two biggest culprits behind my lack of reading time, so it seemed like a good idea.

I didn’t factor in that I was about to move into a new apartment that’s walking distance from my new job. Being able to walk to work and back is great, but that killed three hours of reading time a day. Transitioning from a 29-hour a week internship to a 40-hour a week job took away even more potential reading time. (Not that I’m complaining about gainful employment, of course.)

The last factor that killed my reading time also would up making my choice of going with an e-book this time go in my favor. I bounced around the west coast by plane, hitting four states in two weeks for quidditch. I got off the last flight back from Seattle one night and got into a car the next morning to drive to Southern California for a family vacation. That gave me a bunch of time in a confined space and unreliable internet, so having Nineteen Eighty-Four on Kindle saved the day and my attempts at reading more this year.

Rereading a Classic, Thirteen Years Later

I think the last mistake I made was reading something painfully relevant to living in the Darkest Timeline instead of more escapist fare. On the other hand, while the idea of the telescreen watching you while you’re watching it is chilling, even Orwell didn’t so far as to make up state surveillance via microwave.

I was expecting to focus on the Party, the larger events happening around Winston, and how they compare to what’s happening now. That’s what High School Senior Liz fixated on, but that’s not what happened this time around.

I was eighteen the last time I read this book. I’m thirty-one now. Instead of waiting all the way until Winston and Julia are discovered near the end of the novel to be horrified, Chapter 2 and the introduction of Mrs. Parsons was a slap in the face.

You remember her, right? His neighbor who needs her sink fixed. She’s married to Parsons, that perfect Outer Party drone who sweats too much but totally buys into Ingsoc. She has too many damn kids, beastly little things that live to spy on adults, eventually leading their father to be locked up in the Ministry of Love with Winston. But do you remember how Orwell describes her?

She was a woman of about thirty, but looking much older. One had the impression that there was dust in the creases of her face.

I had to put my phone down for a moment. I remembered Mrs. Parsons from my first read, but I remembered her as an old woman. I may have a wrinkle or two on my face and a handful of white hairs (I prefer to call them a silver tiara of experience), but I am not old. Thirty is too young to look like Mrs. Parsons, to live in terror of your children like Mrs. Parsons, and to just be as worn down and nearly used up as Mrs. Parsons seems to be.

High School Senior Liz probably didn’t notice this when she was reading because thirty seemed so adult and so far away. This time around, the horror of how quickly these characters got old stuck with me to the extent that I didn’t care about the crimes the state was committing. Winston’s also in his thirties, but he thinks of himself as an old man next to Julia with her slim waist and insatiable sexual appetite.

I don’t think my personal horror is totally rooted in vanity or a fear of growing older, either. Living under a system that’s nothing more than “a boot stamping on a human face—forever” is bound to break you down physically in addition to spiritually and emotionally.

While we’re far from an Orwellian society just yet, every time I hear Trump’s voice or learn about another new policy his administration is trying to push through, it wears me down a little more. I get angry, wanting to scream at the TV or radio like it’s the Two Minutes Hate, before forcing myself to calm down. Doing that day in and day out has been exhausting, and he’s only been in office for a little under two months. I can only imagine what four years if this is going to do to me.

Okay, time to read some more escapist fare next week.


Previously in this series:

52 in 52: The Lexicographer’s Dilemma

52 in 52: Mess

52 in 52: Wolf Hall

52 in 52: Go Set a Watchman

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