Good books are not easy to find, and, given our limited lifespan, understandable reluctance to rely too much on the opinions of others and plain laziness, the selective reading is a must.
Some people I heard of read only classics, presumably Greeks and Romans. Or just Marx? I would concede that some new literature is worth checking though one suspects that 99% of what is so admired by the literati today will pass into oblivion before we reach a half of the century.
I recall a short debate a long time ago with a lawyer about the dearth of time for reading; and I mentioned, without intention of bragging or anything of that sort, an approximate number of books I had managed to read recently. He dismissed it with, “Oh, I don’t read novels.” It took my breath away; I said nothing to that and excused myself to get a stiff drink. The audacity worthy of Barrack! The poor man presumed that I read novels, and only novels, which presumably made him, with his monthly reading of The Australian Law Journal, somehow superior. Were I minded to score a point, I could have asked if Balzac, Dostoyevski, Zola, Turgenev, Maupassant, Tolstoy, Mann, Hugo or Hemingway have absolutely nothing to say to him.
Or perhaps Eric Arthur Blair, (25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950) better know as George Orwell. Beside the two books, which made him world famous, he also wrote Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), Burmese days (1934), A Clergyman’s Daughter (1935), Keep the Aspidistras Flying (1936), The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), Homage to Catalonia (1938), Coming Up for Air (1939). Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four came out in 1945 and 1949 respectively.
I was aware of The Road to Wigan Pier; I vaguely knew it did not please his Left-wing publisher, but never felt any great desire to read it. However, when I happened to see it in a library…
George Orwell was commissioned in January 1936 to contribute to the series of books on ‘condition of England’. Later the publisher Victor Gollancz decided to include the book in the Left Book Club publications, but only the first half; the second, in today’s Orwellian speak, being too politically incorrect, i.e. truthful. At that time Orwell had gone to the Spanish civil war, and his wife did not allow any changes. Gollancz therefore had to write a foreword in which “he twisted and turned to protect his readers and his club’s ideological purity from this rude old Etonian.” (Bernard Crick)
I think that even the first half is pretty damming to the simple-minded socialists, nevertheless I doubt that they are likely to read the either half. As proficient our ‘intellectuals’ are in the prescribed group-think, an independent thought is beyond them.
George Orwell could almost be describing our contemporary ‘progressives’ : ‘…all that dreary tribe of high-minded women and sandal-wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers who come forward flocking towards the smell of “progress” like bluebottles to a dead cat‘.