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In this bitingly honest autobiographical essay, Orwell recounts his days as a pupil at St Cyprian's preparatory school in Eastbourne, Sussex. He reflects on a 'world of force and fraud and secrecy,' where the actual 'pattern of school life' was played out as a continuous triumph of the strong over the weak. Reflecting on the hypocrisy of Edwardian society, Orwell condemns the education he received as 'a preparation for a sort of confidence trick,' designed mercinarily to prepare pupils for exams without concern for real knowledge or understanding. This is Orwell as political dissident and supreme chronicler of class conflict.
Essays by the author of 1984 on topics from “remembrances of working in a bookshop [to] recollections of fighting in the Spanish Civil War” (Publishers Weekly). George Orwell was first and foremost an essayist, producing throughout his life an extraordinary array of short nonfiction that reflected—and illuminated—the fraught times in which he lived. “As soon as he began to write something,” comments George Packer in his foreword, “it was as natural for Orwell to propose, generalize, qualify, argue, judge—in short, to think—as it was for Yeats to versify or Dickens to invent.” Facing Unpleasant Facts charts Orwell’s development as a master of the narrative-essay form and unites such classics as “Shooting an Elephant” with lesser-known journalism and passages from his wartime diary. Whether detailing the horrors of Orwell’s boyhood in an English boarding school or bringing to life the sights, sounds, and smells of the Spanish Civil War, these essays weave together the personal and the political in an unmistakable style that is at once plainspoken and brilliantly complex. “Best known for his late-career classics Animal Farm and 1984, George Orwell—who used his given name, Eric Blair, in the earliest pieces of this collection aimed at the aficionado as well as the general reader—was above all a polemicist of the first rank. Organized chronologically, from 1931 through the late 1940s, these in-your-face writings showcase the power of this literary form.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
'Shooting an Elephant' is Orwell's searing and painfully honest account of his experience as a police officer in imperial Burma; killing an escaped elephant in front of a crowd 'solely to avoid looking a fool'. The other masterly essays in this collection include classics such as 'My Country Right or Left', 'How the Poor Die' and 'Such, Such were the Joys', his memoir of the horrors of public school, as well as discussions of Shakespeare, sleeping rough, boys' weeklies and a spirited defence of English cooking. Opinionated, uncompromising, provocative and hugely entertaining, all show Orwell's unique ability to get to the heart of any subject.
Following The Broken Estate, The Irresponsible Self, and How Fiction Works—books that established James Wood as the leading critic of his generation—The Fun Stuff confirms Wood's preeminence, not only as a discerning judge but also as an appreciator of the contemporary novel. In twenty-three passionate, sparkling dispatches—that range over such crucial writers as Thomas Hardy, Leon Tolstoy, Edmund Wilson, and Mikhail Lermontov—Wood offers a panoramic look at the modern novel. He effortlessly connects his encyclopedic, passionate understanding of the literary canon with an equally in-depth analysis of the most important authors writing today, including Cormac McCarthy, Lydia Davis, Aleksandar Hemon, and Michel Houellebecq. Included in The Fun Stuff are the title essay on Keith Moon and the lost joys of drumming—which was a finalist for last year's National Magazine Awards—as well as Wood's essay on George Orwell, which Christopher Hitchens selected for the Best American Essays 2010. The Fun Stuff is indispensable reading for anyone who cares about contemporary literature.
Novels about growing up have long been loved by ordinary readers and analyzed, sometimes with more heat than light, by scholars. This book respects the interests of ordinary readers while clarifying and frequently resolving the moral, psychological, social, and occasionally religious coming-of-age dilemmas that scholars have wrestled with. Focusing on Goethe's Wilhelm Meister, Dickens's David Copperfield, James's What Maisie Knew, Forster's The Longest Journey, Lawrence's Sons and Lovers, and Santayana's The Last Puritan, Jeffers writes in a fresh, engaging style meant to give criticism a liveliness and even brilliance it has in recent decades often lacked.

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