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Keep the Aspidistra Flying

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London, 1936. Gordon Comstock has declared war on the money god; and Gordon is losing the war. Nearly 30 and "rather moth-eaten already," a poet whose one small book of verse has fallen "flatter than any pancake," Gordon has given up a "good" job and gone to work in a bookshop at half his former salary. Always broke, but too proud to accept charity, he rarely sees his few London, 1936. Gordon Comstock has declared war on the money god; and Gordon is losing the war. Nearly 30 and "rather moth-eaten already," a poet whose one small book of verse has fallen "flatter than any pancake," Gordon has given up a "good" job and gone to work in a bookshop at half his former salary. Always broke, but too proud to accept charity, he rarely sees his few friends and cannot get the virginal Rosemary to bed because (or so he believes), "If you have no money ... women won't love you." On the windowsill of Gordon's shabby rooming-house room is a sickly but unkillable aspidistra--a plant he abhors as the banner of the sort of "mingy, lower-middle-class decency" he is fleeing in his downward flight. In Keep the Aspidistra Flying, George Orwell has created a darkly compassionate satire to which anyone who has ever been oppressed by the lack of brass, or by the need to make it, will all too easily relate. He etches the ugly insanity of what Gordon calls "the money-world" in unflinching detail, but the satire has a second edge, too, and Gordon himself is scarcely heroic. In the course of his misadventures, we become grindingly aware that his radical solution to the problem of the money-world is no solution at all--that in his desperate reaction against a monstrous system, he has become something of a monster himself. Orwell keeps both of his edges sharp to the very end--a "happy" ending that poses tough questions about just how happy it really is. That the book itself is not sour, but constantly fresh and frequently funny, is the result of Orwell's steady, unsentimental attention to the telling detail; his dry, quiet humor; his fascination with both the follies and the excellences of his characters; and his courageous refusal to embrace the comforts of any easy answer.


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London, 1936. Gordon Comstock has declared war on the money god; and Gordon is losing the war. Nearly 30 and "rather moth-eaten already," a poet whose one small book of verse has fallen "flatter than any pancake," Gordon has given up a "good" job and gone to work in a bookshop at half his former salary. Always broke, but too proud to accept charity, he rarely sees his few London, 1936. Gordon Comstock has declared war on the money god; and Gordon is losing the war. Nearly 30 and "rather moth-eaten already," a poet whose one small book of verse has fallen "flatter than any pancake," Gordon has given up a "good" job and gone to work in a bookshop at half his former salary. Always broke, but too proud to accept charity, he rarely sees his few friends and cannot get the virginal Rosemary to bed because (or so he believes), "If you have no money ... women won't love you." On the windowsill of Gordon's shabby rooming-house room is a sickly but unkillable aspidistra--a plant he abhors as the banner of the sort of "mingy, lower-middle-class decency" he is fleeing in his downward flight. In Keep the Aspidistra Flying, George Orwell has created a darkly compassionate satire to which anyone who has ever been oppressed by the lack of brass, or by the need to make it, will all too easily relate. He etches the ugly insanity of what Gordon calls "the money-world" in unflinching detail, but the satire has a second edge, too, and Gordon himself is scarcely heroic. In the course of his misadventures, we become grindingly aware that his radical solution to the problem of the money-world is no solution at all--that in his desperate reaction against a monstrous system, he has become something of a monster himself. Orwell keeps both of his edges sharp to the very end--a "happy" ending that poses tough questions about just how happy it really is. That the book itself is not sour, but constantly fresh and frequently funny, is the result of Orwell's steady, unsentimental attention to the telling detail; his dry, quiet humor; his fascination with both the follies and the excellences of his characters; and his courageous refusal to embrace the comforts of any easy answer.

30 review for Keep the Aspidistra Flying

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra can see again but through a smoky lens

    Essentially this is every art student's dilemma, or at least it was back in my day, to sell out and deal with the Man or be true to our art and starve in an attic. Whether to find one's place within the system or try to forge a unique life outside of it. One thing we had in common was pot plants. An aspidistra in Orwell's case, another kind of pot plant for me. As the story works itself out Gordon discovers two more things, things we had in common - we were really rather average poets and artists Essentially this is every art student's dilemma, or at least it was back in my day, to sell out and deal with the Man or be true to our art and starve in an attic. Whether to find one's place within the system or try to forge a unique life outside of it. One thing we had in common was pot plants. An aspidistra in Orwell's case, another kind of pot plant for me. As the story works itself out Gordon discovers two more things, things we had in common - we were really rather average poets and artists, and the answer to all the problems caused by following one's (mediocre) calling and being permanently broke, was the Man himself, aka Filthy Lucre. After all, there is a limit to how much cash you can borrow and still feel yourself an independent soul. Also, at least for a man, including Gordon much to his chagrin, it's much harder to get laid if you haven't a bean to your name. So what did we all do? We sold out. Are we happy with our decision and our lives, did we even stay as artists? Probably most of us look back on our youth, well misspent as artists are wont to do, fondly, but are now solid citizens of society. We have morphed into the Man ourselves and don't call it 'selling out' but making a living. It's not a bad read, amusing in parts, but Gordon is such a tiresome creature and it was all a bit, in a not-too-distant historical sense, been there, done that, grew up. Not Orwell's best book, but still pretty good. Rewritten Jan 29, 2017

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Keep the Aspidistra Flying, George Orwell Keep the Aspidistra Flying, first published in 1936, is a socially critical novel by George Orwell. It is set in 1930's London. The main theme is Gordon Comstock's romantic ambition to defy worship of the money-god and status, and the dismal life that results. The aspidistra is a hardy, long-living plant that is used as a house plant in England, and which can grow to an impressive, even unwieldy size. It was especially popular in the Victorian era, in larg Keep the Aspidistra Flying, George Orwell Keep the Aspidistra Flying, first published in 1936, is a socially critical novel by George Orwell. It is set in 1930's London. The main theme is Gordon Comstock's romantic ambition to defy worship of the money-god and status, and the dismal life that results. The aspidistra is a hardy, long-living plant that is used as a house plant in England, and which can grow to an impressive, even unwieldy size. It was especially popular in the Victorian era, in large part because it could tolerate not only weak sunlight but also the poor indoor air quality that resulted from the use of oil lamps and, later, coal gas lamps. They had fallen out of favor by the 20th century, following the advent of electric lighting. Their use had been so widespread among the middle class that they had become a music hall joke appearing in songs such as "Biggest Aspidistra in the World," of which Gracie Fields made a recording. عنوانها: «همه جا پای پول در میان است»؛ «درخت زندگی»؛ «پول و دیگر هیچ (تسلیم)»؛ نویسنده: جورج اورول؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز یازدهم ماه می سال 1984میلادی عنوان: درخت زندگی؛ نویسنده: جورج اورول؛ مترجم: منصور اقتداری؛ تهران، کاوش، 1363؛ در 322ص؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان بریتانیایی - سده 20م عنوان: همه جا پای پول در میان است؛ نویسنده: جورج اورول؛ مترجم: رضا فاطمی؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، انتشارات مجید، 1391، در 304ص، شابک 9789644530401؛ چاپ دوم 1392؛ چاپ سوم 1394؛ عنوان: پول و دیگر هیچ (تسلیم)؛ نویسنده: جورج اورول؛ مترجم: همایون حنیفه وند مقدم؛ ویراستار سید مجتبی طهوری؛ زنجان، هلال نقره ای، 1396، در 278ص؛ شابک 9786009987924؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، موسسه انتشاراتی پر، 1396؛ در 288ص؛ شابک 9786008137597؛ چاپ دیگر قم ، پدیده دانش؛ 1396؛ در 288ص؛ شابک 9786006052588؛ چاپ دیگر قم، آسمان علم، 1396؛ در 288ص؛ شابک 9786006549484؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، یاران خرد؛ 1396؛ در 336ص؛ شابک 9786009724963؛ نخستین بار با عنوان: «درخت زندگی»؛ با ترجمه جناب «منصور اقتداری»، توسط انتشارات کاوش، در سال 1363هجری خورشیدی، و در 322ص منتشر شد، همچنین نشر کوشش در همان سال، همین کتاب را با عنوان «تسلیم»، با ترجمه جناب «همایون حنیفه وند مقدم»، در 240ص منتشر کرده است ترجمه عنوان اصلی کتاب: «به آسپیدیستراها رسیدگی کن» است، و یک رمان اجتماعی است، که در سال 1936میلادی، توسط «جورج اورول» نگاشته شده است؛ درون‌مایه ی اصلی داستان، درباره ی بلندپروازی «گوردون کامستاک»، برای به چالش کشیدن «پول خدایی»، همان خداوندگاری پول، و جایگاه و مقام و زندگی ملال آورش، پس از آن است؛ «گودرون کاستاک» احساس می‌کند، جنگی به وقوع پیوسته است؛ او شغل تبلیغات برای یک شرکت، به نام «نیو آبلیون»، را که در آن بسیار زبردست، و ماهر بوده را، ترک کرده، و به جای آن، به یک حرفه ی کم درآمد، مشغول شده است، اما اکنون، می‌تواند به دلمشغولی مورد علاقه خویش، یعنی شاعری، مشغول شود؛ او از یک خانواده ی ثروتمند است، که ثروت به ارث رسیده‌ را، با ولخرجی، به هدر داده‌ اند؛ «گوردون»، از اینکه برای زنده ماندن، باید کار کند، خشمگین است، و زیر فشار استرس، و درماندگی خودخواسته‌ ی خویش، بسیار عصبی، و ناراحت است؛ «گوردون» به زندگی حقیرانه‌ ی خویش، در یک اتاق کوچک، در «لندن»، ادامه می‌دهد؛ و در یک فروشگاه کتاب نیز، به سرپرستی یک «اسکاتلندی»، به نام «مک کچنی»، کار می‌کند؛ و در همین حال تنها اثر چاپ شده‌ اش، با عنوان «موش‌ها»، روی قفسه ی کتاب‌فروشی‌ها، خاک می‌خورد؛ «گوردون کاستاک»، از غلبه و تسلط پول (که او دوست میدارد آن را «پول خدایی» بنامد) بر روابط اجتماعی، بسیار ناراحت است؛ و احساس می‌کند که زنان، اگر او ثروتمند بود، بیشتر به او ابراز علاقه می‌کردند نقل از فصل نخست کتاب: (ساعت دو و نیم بود؛ «گوردون کومستاک» بیست و نه ساله، آخرین عضو خانواده «کومستاک»، که نسبت به سنش، پیرتر به نظر میرسید، در دفتر کار کوچکی، که در پشت کتابفروشی آقای «مک کچنی» واقع بود، خودش را روی میز ولو کرده بود، و با انگشت شست خود، پاکت سیگار را، که چهار پنی بیشتر نمیارزید، باز و بسته میکرد دینگ دانگ، ساعت یادبود «پرنس والز»، که در طرف دیگر خیابان بود، باز هم سکوت را شکست؛ «گوردون» با اندکی تلاش، صاف نشست، و پاکت سیگارش را، در جیب بغلش گذاشت؛ خیلی دلش میخواست سیگاری دود کند؛ اما فقط چهار نخ سیگار، برایش باقی مانده بود؛ آن روز چهارشنبه بود، و او تا جمعه، پولی به دست نمیآورد؛ تصور اینکه، آنشب و فردای آنشب، بدون سیگار بماند، برایش وحشتناک بود در حالیکه، از فکر ساعات بی سیگاری فردا، کسل و بی حوصله بود، از جا بلند شد، و به سمت در رفت؛ اندامی کوچک، با استخوان بندی ظریف و حرکاتی عصبی داشت؛ آرنج آستین سمت راست کتش، نخ نما شده بود، و دگمه وسطش افتاده بود، شلوار فلانل حاضریش، لکه دار و از ریخت افتاده بود؛ حتا از بالا که نگاه میکردی، میشد فهمید، که زیره ی کفشهایش، نیاز به تعویض دارند؛ زمانی که از جایش بلند میشد، پولهای خرد درون جیب شلوارش، جرینگ جرینگ صدا کردند؛ دقیقا مقدار پولی را که در جیبش بود، میدانست؛ پنج پنس و نیم بود، ــ یک سکه سه پنی به علاوه دو و نیم پنس ــ؛ مکثی کرد، سکه سه پنی بی ارزش را بیرون آورد، و به آن نگاه کرد؛ واقعا چیز بیمصرفی بود؛ از طرف دیگر، چقدر احمقانه بود، که یک سکه سه پنی را، دیروز بخشیده بود؛ زمانی که داشت سیگار میخرید؛ دخترک فروشنده، با صدایی مثل جیرجیرک، از او پرسیده بود: «اگر یک بلیت سه پنی به شما بدهم، اشکالی دارد؟» و او گفته بود: «نه اصلاً اشکالی ندارد» و آن را از او گرفته بود؛ واقعا احمق بود؛ وقتی به یاد آورد، که تنها دارایی او در این دنیا دو پنس و نیم بود، قلبش به درد آمد؛ به علاوه یک بلیت سه پنی، که نمیشد خرج کرد؛ چون چطور ممکن بود، با یک بلیت سه پنی چیزی خرید؟ آن که سکه نیست، فقط پاسخ یک معما است؛ وقتی آن را از جیبت بیرون میآوری، بسیار احمق به نظر میرسی؛ تو میپرسی «قیمتش چقدر است؟» و دختر فروشنده پاسخ میدهد «سه پنس»، و شما جیب خود را جستجو میکنی، و آن سه پنی مضحک کوچک را، که مانند یک گوهر درخشان، به انتهای انگشت شما چسبیده، از جیب خارج میکنی؛ دختر فروشنده، بینی خود را بالا میکشد؛ او به سرعت درمییابد، که این سه پنس آخرین دارایی شما، در دنیاست؛ او به سرعت، نگاهی به سکه میاندازد؛ به این فکر میکند، که آیا هنوز تکه ای از دسر کریسمس، به آن چسبیده است، یا نه؛ و شما، در حالیکه سر خود را، رو به بالا گرفته اید، از مغازه بیرون میآیید، و دیگر هرگز نمیتوانید به آنجا برگردید؛ نه، بنابراین نباید آخرین پنسهای خود را خرج کرد؛ تا جمعه فقط دو پنس و نیم باقی مانده آن ساعت، ساعت تنهایی بعد از ناهار بود، که انتظار نمیرفت، هیچ مشتری ای به آنجا مراجعه کند؛ او با هفت هزار کتاب تنها بود؛ اتاق تاریک و کوچک که بوی خاک، و کاغذهای کهنه را، میداد؛ دفتر کار او، مملو بود از کتابهایی، که اکثرا کهنه، و غیرقابل فروش بودند؛ روی قفسه های بالایی، نزدیک سقف، دایره المعارفهایی قدیمی، مانند تابوتها در قبرستان عمومی، کنار هم گذاشته شده بودند؛ «گوردون» پرده های آبی پر از گرد و خاک را، که اتاق دیگری را، از آنجا مجزا میکردند، کنار زد؛ این اتاق که روشنتر بود، محل امانت دادن کتاب، به مشتریان بود؛ کتابهایی که امانت گرفتن آنها، نیاز به ودیعه نداشت، و بیشتر از دو پنی نمیارزیدند؛ البته به جز رمانهایی که در آنجا بودند، کتابهای دیگری دیده نمیشد، و عجب رمانهایی! اما به هرحال آن هم برای خود موضوعیتی داشت.)؛ پایان نقل تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 04/10/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    It's a tiresome book with a bitter, complaining main character with artistic ambitions. The snapshot capture of the time and place made it worth reading. "The most difficult times were the 1800s, when many Victorian homes began to have indoor lighting powered by gas. Gas lights produced toxic fumes that induced headache and nausea, blackened ceilings, discolored curtains, corroded metals and left a layer of soot on every flat surface. Flowers and most houseplants wilted. Only two particularly har It's a tiresome book with a bitter, complaining main character with artistic ambitions. The snapshot capture of the time and place made it worth reading. "The most difficult times were the 1800s, when many Victorian homes began to have indoor lighting powered by gas. Gas lights produced toxic fumes that induced headache and nausea, blackened ceilings, discolored curtains, corroded metals and left a layer of soot on every flat surface. Flowers and most houseplants wilted. Only two particularly hardy plants managed to survive the dismal environment of a Victorian home—the Kentia palm and the aspidistra. These two plants, especially the aspidistra, became a mainstay of every Victorian parlour, drawing room, lobby and upscale ballroom." https://www.amusingplanet.com/2019/04...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Annelies

    What is more important in life: to hold on your principles and by this lead a dreadful life, or to leave your principles, and by that get a richer life? Actually this is the basic question in this book. To know what Gordon choses, You should read the book. It's worth it. What is more important in life: to hold on your principles and by this lead a dreadful life, or to leave your principles, and by that get a richer life? Actually this is the basic question in this book. To know what Gordon choses, You should read the book. It's worth it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ariel

    Oh, Orwell, thank you. It's no secret that Animal Farm is one of my favourite books. Not only because it is a genius piece of the literary canon, but also because it the book that helped me crash down the wall between seeing classics as enemy and seeing their immense merit. It's been a long while since I read Animal Farm, (it was back in 2011), and while I enjoyed 1984 and some of Orwell's essays, I admit to not knowing if he'd be able to blow me away as strongly as he did with Animal Farm. I sta Oh, Orwell, thank you. It's no secret that Animal Farm is one of my favourite books. Not only because it is a genius piece of the literary canon, but also because it the book that helped me crash down the wall between seeing classics as enemy and seeing their immense merit. It's been a long while since I read Animal Farm, (it was back in 2011), and while I enjoyed 1984 and some of Orwell's essays, I admit to not knowing if he'd be able to blow me away as strongly as he did with Animal Farm. I stand corrected. Keep the Aspidistra Flying can stand proudly beside Animal Farm. This book's main theme was money. Orwell is all about his grander ideas, and here the idea was clear: can a person stand against the "money-god"? Money is inescapable, it is necessary in all things. Desirable? Perhaps not. But necessary. Our main character, Gordon, decides to pledge war against money, to try and live against it and without it, and we see where that takes him. Orwell is politics, is social change, and this was a fantastic commentary on the position that money plays within and around our lives. The limitations and possibilities that it creates. It was very depressing at parts, very frustrating at parts, but always intelligent and important. Something very peculiar, that you won't find in Animal Farm of 1984, was a satisfying ending. So bask in it! Cause you won't see it too often from Orwell! It also had legitimate plot twists and moments that had me dying to keep reading. I read this book with my good friend Barry, and I want to thank him for being so great. We've had great discussion about this book, he's put up with my ramblings, and he's allowed Keep the Aspidistra Flying to have a similar effect on me that Animal Farm did: I can't wait to pick up more classics.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    Dear George Orwell, It's not you, it's me. It had to happen, really, this bit of faultering in the crush I've had on you. Sure, I've known you for years, but as you know, I've been completely smitten with you since last summer when I read your first published novel, Down and Out in Paris and London. I grew more smitten while reading An Age Like This, 1920- 1940, your early correspondance, reviews, and essays, and I remained so while reading your 2nd published novel, Burmese Days. But now the new Dear George Orwell, It's not you, it's me. It had to happen, really, this bit of faultering in the crush I've had on you. Sure, I've known you for years, but as you know, I've been completely smitten with you since last summer when I read your first published novel, Down and Out in Paris and London. I grew more smitten while reading An Age Like This, 1920- 1940, your early correspondance, reviews, and essays, and I remained so while reading your 2nd published novel, Burmese Days. But now the new car smell has faded a bit from my crush (sorry George, I know how Socialists detest it when emotions are fetishized and commodified). It's just that this latest book of yours that I've read, your 4th published novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936, GB; 1956, US) has turned me from you a bit. I know that I'm probably making a mistake; others tell me how great you are--critic Lionel Trilling is quoted on the back leaf of my Harcourt edition as saying that Keep ... is "A remarkable novel ... a summa of all the criticisms of a commercial civilization that have ever been made," and the San Francisco Chronicle calls it "Both humorous and poignant." And to an extent, I agree--especially with Trilling's "summa" statement. The story is simple enough: Gordon Comstock, a decent poet of little success, has declared war on money. He is determined that he will live in a constant state of poverty, battling throughout the book to avoid succumbing to the ownership of what is, to him, the symbol of the drudge of middle class life: the aspidistra, a spindly-leafed member of the lily family, prized for its ability to withstand poor soil, little light, and minimal care. And I have to say that establishing this plant as Comstock's nemesis is a fabulously Orwellian statement about what it means to achieve enough "success" to land oneself in the middling rank. If it were only that to consider, George, I'd still be all about you. So what's my problem? you ask. Why am I giving you the "it's not you, it's me" speech? My problem is that your main character annoys me tremendously. Yes, Gordon Comstock shares some similarities to John Flory, the protagonist in Burmese Days. Both men step outside their immediate social group to take an objective look at that group. Both make attempts, albeit misguided and rather unsuccessful attemps, to avoid being manipulated by those close to them. But Flory is a much more sympathetic and likable character whose main flaw, one could argue, is blind romantic optimism. Perhaps in some ways, George, you see Comstock as Flory taken to the next step, the place one goes after blind romantic optimism has failed. To me, however, Comstock comes off as a whiney, self-destructive man having a major pout. He is determined that everyone around him be as repulsed by him as he is by the system that prizes the bastion of mediocrity that is the aspidistra. In all honesty, George, I think the problem, as is so often the case when a romance takes a downward turn, is that Comstock reminds me of a past relationship, he reminds me of a friend in my real world, the one outside of the pages, who wanted to issue a similar indictment against society. I know it's bad form to compare our situation with one past, but it's true, I've seen it before, the way Comstock relishes his smugness as he sits in his pious filth only to realize that he is the only one who understands the joke. The problem is that neither my friend in the past relationship nor Comstock seem to understand that society as a whole doesn't take much notice when one man refuses to conform to its dictates. At most that refusal may get him tossed in jail for some fairly innocuous reason, but there's no real improvement in the social soil. As with my friend, when Comstock realizes this, he becomes disenchanted with his perfect society of one and must decide which is worse, to slog though life in embittered solitude or to join the rest of the group by opening the curtains to the front window so all can see that the aspidistra is thriving. George, I guess what I'm saying is that I just need a little time and space. I know we've spent some amazing time together, and I'm sure that in time, I'll come to my senses and be back in touch. Until then, I wish you well and hope someone new finds you for the amazing guy you are. All my best, Patricia

  7. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    Apparently Orwell himself didn't think much of this, and kept Keep the Aspidistra Flying from being reprinted in his lifetime. The mixed reviews come as no surprise then. While it isn't a bad novel, the plot does feel a bit puny, and the message he is trying to send out is delivered without any real drive and potency. Even the metaphors don't really stand up. It's something - unlike 1984 or my fave Down and Out in Paris and London - that's not going to hang around in my head for too long. Also, Apparently Orwell himself didn't think much of this, and kept Keep the Aspidistra Flying from being reprinted in his lifetime. The mixed reviews come as no surprise then. While it isn't a bad novel, the plot does feel a bit puny, and the message he is trying to send out is delivered without any real drive and potency. Even the metaphors don't really stand up. It's something - unlike 1984 or my fave Down and Out in Paris and London - that's not going to hang around in my head for too long. Also, I don't know how on earth the novel can be seen as satire, because for me it isn't. Just too depressing and straight-faced. The contradicting second-rate poet Gordon Comstock - a character I didn't particularly like - makes the decision to quit his advertising agency to take up a dead-end job in a small bookshop. Basically he is sick to death of the blighting consumerism on society. Just about getting by with his uncomplaining girlfriend Rosemary, leads to an unexpected pregnancy and he is suddenly faced with the choice of whether to conform or to compound in regards to his hardship way of life. It's safe to say that Comstock incorporates some of the difficulties Orwell experienced himself. The person trying to live morally in a capitalist society for example. When it comes to the actual subject of finances, then I'd say Gordon is more on the side of wanting to simply shun adult life and responsibilities than he is bothered by the money-god and capitalism. He sees his own self-inflicted poverty easier to take rather than have it thrust upon him by outer forces. Orwell’s own life of poverty does mean Gordon’s is written with authenticity, but, I'd simply take Orwell all day long writing about himself rather than a fictitious version. Like I've said before - apart from 1984 - I much prefer his non-fiction/essays. 2.7 stars.

  8. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    The reader’s response to Gordon Comstock’s behaviour will depend upon whether the reader has ever tried to live a “self-sufficient” life free from bourgeois respectability, or seriously pursued an artistic vocation with stubborn single-mindedness. Orwell’s novel is pretty one-track plot-wise—what happens when a person renounces money and its interminable grip?—but Comstock’s obsessive pursuit is a societal conundrum of universal proportions and makes for a frustrating and bone-deep trip to the d The reader’s response to Gordon Comstock’s behaviour will depend upon whether the reader has ever tried to live a “self-sufficient” life free from bourgeois respectability, or seriously pursued an artistic vocation with stubborn single-mindedness. Orwell’s novel is pretty one-track plot-wise—what happens when a person renounces money and its interminable grip?—but Comstock’s obsessive pursuit is a societal conundrum of universal proportions and makes for a frustrating and bone-deep trip to the depths. In my own case, my mother abandoned college ambitions to support her parents, and my two siblings have ditched artistic ambitions in favour of reasonably stable and well-paid occupations—as the third child, with this history of “selling out to the man,” I felt a strong need to have convictions as an artist manqué, privations being part of the plan on the road to obscurity. Comstock’s artistic drive is not strong enough to triumph over his money worries, suggesting his desire to write poetry is nothing but an excuse for rebelling against a predetermined bourgeois society (more horrible in the 1930s than it will ever be again). As with all Orwell’s fiction: it burrows into your conscience and lays eggs there.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Barry Pierce

    I buddy read this book with my bestie, Ariel Bissett. We spent more time on Voxer than actually reading this novel most nights but in our defense we spent most of that time gushing about Orwell. I think this is my favorite Orwell. I knew that from the very first chapter and oh what a chapter that is. I think it may be one of the best opening chapters to a novel that I've ever read, in fact, it's one of the best chapters that I've ever read. This novel tells us the story of Gordon Comstock, a man I buddy read this book with my bestie, Ariel Bissett. We spent more time on Voxer than actually reading this novel most nights but in our defense we spent most of that time gushing about Orwell. I think this is my favorite Orwell. I knew that from the very first chapter and oh what a chapter that is. I think it may be one of the best opening chapters to a novel that I've ever read, in fact, it's one of the best chapters that I've ever read. This novel tells us the story of Gordon Comstock, a man that completely rejects capitalism so much that he gives up his job at a large advertising agency to work in a quaint little bookshop. He hates money. He just wants to be a poet. However, his selfless, money-hating, and sometimes irritating attitude does not help his life in any way. Gordon is still an incredibly interesting protagonist though and I felt that this glimpse into life was just perfect, perfect! I really just want to run around the streets with copies of this book and throw it at people's faces shouting "OH MY GOD READ THIS". I would obviously be arrested for these actions so I'm going to do it here, OH MY GOD READ THIS. If you've only read the famous Orwells, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, then I highly suggest you read his lesser-known but (in my opinion) better works. This novel is a great entry point into the books that really made Orwell great. Once you're hooked though, you'll never look back!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Luís

    The novel is like "1984", a thesis novel. The author sets out to portray to us in great detail the monotony and smallness of Gordon's life and shows us page after page to what extent money governs every moment of the life of his "hero", despite his desperate attempt to extricate himself from the system. Suppose a form of boredom sometimes accompanies reading. In that case, it is insidious anguish that seizes the reader when he realizes how poverty eats away at Gordon from within, at the risk of The novel is like "1984", a thesis novel. The author sets out to portray to us in great detail the monotony and smallness of Gordon's life and shows us page after page to what extent money governs every moment of the life of his "hero", despite his desperate attempt to extricate himself from the system. Suppose a form of boredom sometimes accompanies reading. In that case, it is insidious anguish that seizes the reader when he realizes how poverty eats away at Gordon from within, at the risk of robbing him of his soul. The reader quickly grasps the irony of the situation: by choosing to fight against money, Gordon paradoxically got into a slump where lack of funds dictates each of his choices and ends up defining him as a social, penniless friend with Ravelston and chaste lover with Rosemary. At first glance, the title of the novel, to say the least opaque, takes on its full meaning here: the aspidistra is a perennial plant, an integral part of every London household and symbolizes a form of normality, of belonging to society. Gordon's hatred of the aspidistra, which in his eyes represents the system he refuses to be a part of, illustrates all the author's chilling irony perfectly.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    A novel of London life and the search for integrity in the 1930s. It conjures up the oppressive atmosphere resulting from self inflicted poverty and features the shabbier side of life to the extent that the one brief excursion that the hero and his girlfriend make out of London feels like the explosive escape from a crushing environment. The story follows a young man who gives up a comfortable job in advertising to work on a not very good poem about how rubbish and tawdry modern life and its amus A novel of London life and the search for integrity in the 1930s. It conjures up the oppressive atmosphere resulting from self inflicted poverty and features the shabbier side of life to the extent that the one brief excursion that the hero and his girlfriend make out of London feels like the explosive escape from a crushing environment. The story follows a young man who gives up a comfortable job in advertising to work on a not very good poem about how rubbish and tawdry modern life and its amusements are. It is slightly unsatisfying as a novel I think because it can't resolve the problem that it sets up in a satisfactory way, but maybe you might shrug and find that is simply realistic.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    3.5 stars rounded up One of Orwell’s earlier novels and one he didn’t really like, as he declined to have it reprinted in his lifetime. There are elements of Orwell’s life in this, rather than his personality. This is a biting satire written and set in the mid-1930s. The satire covers what might be called the “rat-race” and the god of money. It is a bitter demolition of lower middle class values as Orwell perceived them. The prose is great, but it is difficult to read, mainly because of the main 3.5 stars rounded up One of Orwell’s earlier novels and one he didn’t really like, as he declined to have it reprinted in his lifetime. There are elements of Orwell’s life in this, rather than his personality. This is a biting satire written and set in the mid-1930s. The satire covers what might be called the “rat-race” and the god of money. It is a bitter demolition of lower middle class values as Orwell perceived them. The prose is great, but it is difficult to read, mainly because of the main protagonist Gordon Comstock, who is really not at all likeable, and very irritating. Orwell does seem in his early work to have the ability to write unsympathetic male characters. Comstock leaves a good job as an advertising copywriter because of his principles and his desire to make war on the good of money, failing to realise if you are in poverty money becomes much more important. He takes a low paid job in a bookshop and lives in a bedsitting room and struggles to make ends meet. He does have friends. Ravelston is an upper class socialist who publishes a magazine and sometimes publishes Comstock’s rather awful poetry. Ravelston always offers extra support to Comstock in terms of loans, gifts or food, but Comstock’s pride and principles mean he resentfully refuses. There is also Rosemary, Comstock’s girlfriend, whom he treats very badly, feeling resentment towards her as well and not willing to contemplate her paying her own way when they go out. Comstock, despite professing socialism is unable to leave his middle class values behind when it comes to his relationships with women, although he continues to pressurize Rosemary to sleep with him. When he does sell a poem and has a little money he insists on taking his friends out, gets very drunk, assaults Rosemary and gets arrested. He loses his job and ends up in an even lower paid job. The ending is interesting as for me it has a double edge. Is it redemptive? Or is it an indication that there is no escape from the god of money. Orwell writes Comstock’s angst well: “Before, he had fought against the money code, and yet he had clung to his wretched remnant of decency. But now it was precisely from decency that he wanted to escape. He wanted to go down, deep down, into some world where decency no longer mattered; to cut the strings of his self-respect, to submerge himself—to sink, as Rosemary had said. It was all bound up in his mind with the thought of being under ground. He liked to think of the lost people, the under-ground people: tramps, beggars, criminals, prostitutes… He liked to think that beneath the world of money there is that great sluttish underworld where failure and success have no meaning; a sort of kingdom of ghosts where all are equal. That was where he wished to be, down in the ghost kingdom, below ambition. It comforted him somehow to think of the smoke-dim slums of South London sprawling on and on, a huge graceless wilderness where you could lose yourself forever” Orwell in real life wrote mostly reportage and this is the best way to read him, the early novels were experiments. Comstock does nothing with his principles and seems apolitical. As Orwell says: “There will be no revolution in England while there are aspidistras in the windows.” Comstock is an angry young man before his time, but vents his anger on those that care for him rather than the capitalist system. Orwell also makes the point that poverty is in no way romantic, a point he makes much more eloquently in his reportage. An aspidistra by the way is a hardy, long-lived house plant, much beloved in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in middle class British homes. Orwell is using it to symbolize a certain middle class set of attitudes. He does the satire very effectively, so effectively and makes Comstock so unlikeable that the novel is difficult to read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    E. G.

    A Note on the Text --Keep the Aspidistra Flying

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    If you have seen the updates you may already realize that I was not overly-keen on Gordon Comstock. Nevertheless the liking or disliking of the hero or heroine of a novel evidently does not in itself negate the quality of the writing and it is certainly true that this novel is a really powerful description of the blanching effect of poverty on the colour of life, of the crippling struggle that the poor underwent between the wars and the pitiful descriptions of scrimping and saving and the sinkin If you have seen the updates you may already realize that I was not overly-keen on Gordon Comstock. Nevertheless the liking or disliking of the hero or heroine of a novel evidently does not in itself negate the quality of the writing and it is certainly true that this novel is a really powerful description of the blanching effect of poverty on the colour of life, of the crippling struggle that the poor underwent between the wars and the pitiful descriptions of scrimping and saving and the sinking sense of worth they brought were bleak and therefore very effective. There was also real humour here though and Orwell's descriptions of the Comstock family and the demise of their shortlived wealth was really rich, if you'll pardon the inappropriate irony, in imagery as indeed was a great deal of the narrative. This sounds like a dreadful cliche but it is true that with just a few words and a swift pencil sketch he very ably conjures up in the reader's mind the character before you. So dire poverty leading to a crushing of expectation and hope, faithful friends, all climaxing in a sort of happy ending...what is there not to like ? Well, Gordon Comstock is unbelievable and I mean that in the sense of not real and his girlfriend's blind fidelity is cloyingly insipid. The reasons for his declared intention to step out of money and society is never really explained and not really ever lived out. He behaves like the grungy 13 year old who leaves his room in a mess, puts big childishly drawn pictures reading ' Do Not enter ' and ' No grown ups allowed ' on the door but then moans and gripes when his tea isn't ready. Rosemary and his wealthy mate Ravelston nobly stick by him but their fidelity just didn't ring true. His continual rejection of their offers of help and support, his petulant bleatings about how Rosemary's actions towards him were all based on his lack or possession of money, his continual abuse of his poverty-stricken sister's adoration and generosity served only to make him more loathsome and horrendously lacking in self-knowledge. Orwell has written a powerful description of poverty and its accruing horrors but it is Julia, the sister, who really undergoes this. Comstock, Orwell imagines, always has the safety net of his previous ' Good job' to return to; in the 1930's this seems unlikely. If Ravelston, Julia, his previous employer and most of all Rosemary really loved him they ought to have shaken the pretentious little arse and made him grow up. Had Comstock been more believable this would have been a four star edging upwards but his character just didn't ring true; he came across as a device which Orwell could use so as to berate society, poverty and the rest. The nigh on saintliness of the three other main protagonists was also out of place in a realistic novel. Their turning of the other cheek or turning a blind eye to Comstock's stupidity and never forcing him to seriously address what he was doing or why, was laziness on the part of Orwell cos had they done so, Orwell himself would have had to find an explanation and I am not sure he had one.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Pink

    I bloody love Orwell. He's not a perfect author and couldn't keep politics or social commentary out of his fiction, but that's part of his appeal. Yes, he banged on constantly about poverty, or war and far too often revealed his lecharous side. I forgive it all. Orwell had something he wanted to say and he found a way to say it. I don't agree with everything, I'm not blown away by his writing, but I am sad that I've now read all of his stories. I bloody love Orwell. He's not a perfect author and couldn't keep politics or social commentary out of his fiction, but that's part of his appeal. Yes, he banged on constantly about poverty, or war and far too often revealed his lecharous side. I forgive it all. Orwell had something he wanted to say and he found a way to say it. I don't agree with everything, I'm not blown away by his writing, but I am sad that I've now read all of his stories.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Renée Paule

    "The mistake you make, don't you see, is in thinking one can live in a corrupt society without being corrupt oneself. After all, what do you achieve by refusing to make money? You're trying to behave as though one could stand right outside our economic system. But one can't. One's got to change the system, or one changes nothing." I thoroughly enjoyed this little book. If you like Orwell you will love Keep the Aspidistra Flying. "The mistake you make, don't you see, is in thinking one can live in a corrupt society without being corrupt oneself. After all, what do you achieve by refusing to make money? You're trying to behave as though one could stand right outside our economic system. But one can't. One's got to change the system, or one changes nothing." I thoroughly enjoyed this little book. If you like Orwell you will love Keep the Aspidistra Flying.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah (Presto agitato)

    Girl problems, money problems, houseplant problems. Things are not going Gordon’s way. Money has become Gordon Comstock’s all-consuming idée fixe (followed closely by aspidistras). Gordon, who comes from “one of those depressing families, so common among the middle-middle classes, in which nothing ever happens,” refuses to be a slave to the “money-god.” He gives up a relatively well paying but soulless job at an advertising agency, a job that furthers the evils of the capitalism that he deplores Girl problems, money problems, houseplant problems. Things are not going Gordon’s way. Money has become Gordon Comstock’s all-consuming idée fixe (followed closely by aspidistras). Gordon, who comes from “one of those depressing families, so common among the middle-middle classes, in which nothing ever happens,” refuses to be a slave to the “money-god.” He gives up a relatively well paying but soulless job at an advertising agency, a job that furthers the evils of the capitalism that he deplores. He instead deliberately seeks out a position in a bookshop with low pay and no hope of advancement while he struggles at writing his poetry. At first this decision may appear noble and idealistic, but Gordon rapidly ceases to be a sympathetic character as he mooches money off of his long-suffering and far from wealthy sister and complains nonstop to everyone who will listen about both the evils of money and how difficult it is for him not to have money. As he points out, he isn’t poor enough to experience actual hardship (unlike many in the 1930s), but is poor enough that everything from socializing with friends to courting his girlfriend to writing poetry to having a cup of tea without having to hide it from the landlady is nearly impossible. His lack of money, which is at least partially self-inflicted, becomes Gordon’s excuse for all that he has failed to achieve in his life. His endless whining is so pervasive that you want to shake him. Gordon is hardly the most charming of protagonists, but his tragic fall and relationship with his saintly girlfriend, Rosemary, are still compelling, largely due to Orwell’s vivid characterizations. Keep the Aspidistra Flying is not nearly as aggressively political as Orwell’s more famous works. The novel is more concerned with interpersonal relationships, but still addresses the larger issues of capitalism, socialism, and class division in a darkly humorous manner.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rowena

    Wow, what a tiresome book! The reason I even gave it three stars is because it's an Orwell book and, as such, he doesn't disappoint us with his wit, satire and irony. However, the story itself was lacking.Orwell must have been in a very misanthropic mood when he wrote this. The main character, Gordon, is so depressing and unlikeable; he ties everything to money (for example, it took him an hour to shave one morning because he didn't have enough money). I just got so sick and tired of hearing abo Wow, what a tiresome book! The reason I even gave it three stars is because it's an Orwell book and, as such, he doesn't disappoint us with his wit, satire and irony. However, the story itself was lacking.Orwell must have been in a very misanthropic mood when he wrote this. The main character, Gordon, is so depressing and unlikeable; he ties everything to money (for example, it took him an hour to shave one morning because he didn't have enough money). I just got so sick and tired of hearing about how poor he was and how people treated him due to his lack of money (I believe most of the cases were delusion on his part).The fact that he has such an understanding girlfriend is beyond me. Gordon declares war on money. I think his declaration is misguided as he lives in London and needs money to survive. Also, he hopes to be a famous poet one day so he would get paid from that. I just didn't get his reasoning for declaring war on the 'money god.' So, in summary, I didn't waste my time reading this book but it's definitely not one I would choose to read again.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    According to Gordon Bowker, this is one of the novels Orwell wanted his literary executor to suppress after his death. That’s a clear indication of how Orwell felt about the novel and it’s fair to say that it’s not his strongest work. However, it still has a lot going for it, in particular black humour, sharp satire and a window into Orwell’s own life. Having recently read Bowker’s biography of Orwell, I particularly appreciated the autobiographical elements of the novel, which otherwise would h According to Gordon Bowker, this is one of the novels Orwell wanted his literary executor to suppress after his death. That’s a clear indication of how Orwell felt about the novel and it’s fair to say that it’s not his strongest work. However, it still has a lot going for it, in particular black humour, sharp satire and a window into Orwell’s own life. Having recently read Bowker’s biography of Orwell, I particularly appreciated the autobiographical elements of the novel, which otherwise would have been lost on me. The novel is Orwell at his most autobiographical. The main protagonist, Gordon Comstock, has a similar “lower upper middle class” background to Orwell. Like Orwell, Gordon rejects the values of his family and social class, turning against what he describes as “the money-god”. He forsakes a hated “good job” in order to pursue a writing career, just as Orwell gave up a career in the Imperial Police Force in Burma to become a writer. Gordon works in a secondhand bookstore - as did Orwell - and his descent into poverty is based on Orwell’s experiences living among the unemployed and the destitute. For me, one of the major weaknesses of the work is that Gordon’s rage against middle class values becomes rather tedious (although to be fair, that may have been part of the point Orwell wanted to make). Another is that it’s hard to believe that Gordon’s long-suffering girlfriend, Rosemary, would persist in her devotion to someone so determinedly unattractive. On balance, though, the strengths of the work outweigh the weaknesses. When you get down to it, Orwell’s wonderful prose makes everything he wrote worth reading. I listened to an audiobook edition narrated by Richard E Grant. His narration could not be faulted and I’d probably listen to him reading the bus timetable.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kells Next Read

    Slowly but surely working my way to Orwell's work and I'm have a mighty splendid time doing so. This book had me LOL several times. I can't wait to continue my author exploration of this genius works. Slowly but surely working my way to Orwell's work and I'm have a mighty splendid time doing so. This book had me LOL several times. I can't wait to continue my author exploration of this genius works.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chris_P

    Our civilization is founded on greed and fear, but in the lives of common men the greed and fear are mysteriously transmuted into something nobler. This is the story of a thirty-year-old man with issues. That's as simple a description as it gets. Simple is no good in this case though. Indeed, Orwell delivers a complex novel not so much in a literary sense, as in a psychological one. Gordon is an anti-hero whose issues revolve around money. Money is the key word here. If I had to describe him with Our civilization is founded on greed and fear, but in the lives of common men the greed and fear are mysteriously transmuted into something nobler. This is the story of a thirty-year-old man with issues. That's as simple a description as it gets. Simple is no good in this case though. Indeed, Orwell delivers a complex novel not so much in a literary sense, as in a psychological one. Gordon is an anti-hero whose issues revolve around money. Money is the key word here. If I had to describe him without getting too much into his character, I'd say he is one lucky son of a bitch who keeps kicking his luck away. He quits his very good job only because he doesn't want to be a slave to money. He keeps risking losing his girlfriend who loves him despite all his whims and his ill-tempered manners toward her that always have to do with his not having enough money. He also constantly tests the patience of his only friend, a loaded marxist who has a different kind of money complex. Yet, his former boss is always willing to give him back the job, his girlfriend is always understanding and never gives him a hard time about his reluctance to make money, and his friend never seems to be able to get mad at him. So big is their loyalty that one can only wonder about their motives. Afterall it's not easy banging your heart against some mad bugger's wall. With the pretence of willing to make money out of his poetry, Gordon has decided to hit bottom. He actually craves to bury himself deep in the mud of poverty. Because it's either that or he is a cog in the machine of capitalism. And that's where my objection is. I wanted Orwell to assume a stance. Instead, he seems to support the aforementioned dilemma. Maybe it was my idea but that was how I perceived it. Admittedly, he is spot on, concerning the way commercialism works and what it can do to the psyche of someone who has "seen the Matrix". However, he seems to let his well-known pessimism take over which would be alright if only he, as an author, gave at least a glimmer of hope in the light of a big idea. But no such thing occurs. That said, it's still a very moving novel that goes deep into the characters' minds while describing a reality that's ever-present one way or the other.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tosh

    Well first of all, Orwell is a fantastic prose writer. He can really make your feet feel tired by his descriptions of walking long distance in London, and the way he describes food, drinking, and the loose change in your pocket is right on the mark. What made me tired is the main character's total obsession about money. Not having money, the making of money, etc. I hated that and that is one of the main themes of this book. But then again I wanted to shoot the main character in the head and get Well first of all, Orwell is a fantastic prose writer. He can really make your feet feel tired by his descriptions of walking long distance in London, and the way he describes food, drinking, and the loose change in your pocket is right on the mark. What made me tired is the main character's total obsession about money. Not having money, the making of money, etc. I hated that and that is one of the main themes of this book. But then again I wanted to shoot the main character in the head and get rid of his misery. But at the same time it reminded me of when I really didn't have money, and the importance of having a certain amount of coins in your pocket being the most important thing on this universe. So I am not sure if Orwell is making fun or light of those who hold money at a high level, or putting down a particular type of activist or socialist. But at the bottom line, Orwell was a magnificent writer. He had an incredible eye for detail, and strange enough, while reading this book I thought of students or writers should study his prose style - because again, he's a magnificent writer. It sounds so dry when one admires a writers' technique with respect to sentence structure, but Orwell is sort of a classic case book in how to describe the world around the writer. And as a reader, that is simply great. The theme of the book is another matter.... and perhaps we can talk about that later via postings, etc.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Janelle

    The aspidistra is a houseplant common amongst the boring middle classes and the “hero” of this book, Gordon Comstock seems obsessed with them. He’s a pathetic character, inherited money has dissipated, he abandons a soul destroying job in advertising to pursue poetry and works for low pay in a bookshop. His girlfriend Rosemary, his sister Julia and his editor Ravelston try to help him out but he continues whining about poverty. He wants to live without worrying about money, but you need money to The aspidistra is a houseplant common amongst the boring middle classes and the “hero” of this book, Gordon Comstock seems obsessed with them. He’s a pathetic character, inherited money has dissipated, he abandons a soul destroying job in advertising to pursue poetry and works for low pay in a bookshop. His girlfriend Rosemary, his sister Julia and his editor Ravelston try to help him out but he continues whining about poverty. He wants to live without worrying about money, but you need money to do that. He borrows lots of money off his poor sister and she always puts him first, working hard and he never reciprocates. He’s horrible and I was quite sick of him by the end of this book. The writing is clever and humorous and I got the satire, I just didn’t enjoy reading about Gordon!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Daren

    I enjoyed this one of Orwells, written in 1936, and set in 1930s London. Gordon is a character set up to be pitied and despised, but who also grudgingly earns some respect, for sticking to his philosophy - no matter how theoretical and impractical it is. There is no doubt the novel is deep into description - and for me that was what made it, the descriptive 1930s London, the grimy and impoverished existence of Gordon Comstock, the mundanities of every-day life in a going nowhere job, a struggling I enjoyed this one of Orwells, written in 1936, and set in 1930s London. Gordon is a character set up to be pitied and despised, but who also grudgingly earns some respect, for sticking to his philosophy - no matter how theoretical and impractical it is. There is no doubt the novel is deep into description - and for me that was what made it, the descriptive 1930s London, the grimy and impoverished existence of Gordon Comstock, the mundanities of every-day life in a going nowhere job, a struggling poet in the evening. The aspidistra as a symbol of middle-middle-class, Gordon's reluctance to use his three penny bit (which he calls a Joey) and his view that everyone would know it was his last coin. Gordon offers enough for the reader to become, at least, partly invested in him. He lives a meagre existence by choice, nevertheless disdains it. He resigns from a good job, as he declared his 'war on money' and seeks only 'a job' (but not a 'good job'), while continually blaming his lack of money for his failure of a social life, and his going-nowhere relationship with Rosemary. Of the other characters, Ravelston is for me the most interesting. Ravelston is relatively wealthy, but lives down as a part of his belief in socialism, become a benefactor to Gordon, trying as he might to encourage him to further his poetry, and using his position as an editor of a socialist magazine to publish a little of Gordon's work. Gordon is constantly battling against Ravelston, determined not to bludge off him, yet looking up to him at the same time. While others may consider it too long, I enjoyed the descriptive nature of this story, and could have read more, and particularly enjoyed the bookshop description, and the scenes of public transport, and London in general. 4.5 stars, rounded down, as it isn't quite a 5 star book. Some quotes: They were one of those depressing families, so common among the middle-middle class, in which nothing ever happens. -- Gordon put his hand against the swing door. He even pushed it open a few inches. The warm fog of smoke and beer slipped through the crack. A familiar, reviving smell; nevertheless as he smelled it his nerve failed him. No! Impossible to go in. He turned away. He couldn't go shoving into that saloon bar with only fourpence halfpenny in his pocket. Never let other people buy your drinks for you! The first commandment of the moneyless. He made off down the dark pavement. -- “The mistake you make, don't you see,is in thinking one can live in a corrupt society without being corrupt oneself. After all, what do you achieve by refusing to make money? You're trying to behave as though one could stand right outside our economic system. But one can't. One's got to change the system, or one changes nothing. One can't put things right in a hole-and-corner way, if you take my meaning.” -- The aspidistra became a sort of symbol for Gordon after that. The aspidistra, the flower of England! It ought to be on our coat of arms instead of the lion and the unicorn. There will be no revolution in England while there are aspidistras in the windows.”

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lex Javier

    Finishing the book within a day, I have a feeling that I just experienced something profoundly beautiful. Keep the Aspidistra Flying is the story of a very likable anti-hero and a very outstanding heroine. That story between the two characters is almost too sacred to give out in a book review. You have to read it yourself. Yet there is still something to talk about: the author's message. You can't read and put down Orwell's novels without rearranging a few of your beliefs. Only Orwell can speechif Finishing the book within a day, I have a feeling that I just experienced something profoundly beautiful. Keep the Aspidistra Flying is the story of a very likable anti-hero and a very outstanding heroine. That story between the two characters is almost too sacred to give out in a book review. You have to read it yourself. Yet there is still something to talk about: the author's message. You can't read and put down Orwell's novels without rearranging a few of your beliefs. Only Orwell can speechify so effortlessly the concepts of love and the accompanying hatred, of wealth and the necessary poverty. He can break your heart with paragraphs about coins in your pocket, of bread and margarine in your stomach, of the cost and loss of self-respect, of not being able to afford friendship. It seems like it's less painful to withdraw from the world than struggle within it. You're convinced of it, anyhow. Orwell feeds you every argument for hating the world -- you're nodding with every argument for hating the world -- but then purges this emotion away. No, it's not enough to hate the world for the rest of your life, Orwell seems to gently tell you. For in return for showing you the absolute worst in earth, he gives you reasons for forgiveness, reasons for redemption, reasons for optimism. Life is not unlivable; living is worth it. Why is such a process necessary? Destruction and reconstruction of beliefs is required to be a fully human being, because only the renewed belief is not the default nor the destined kind, but desired and determined. It is the contribution of choice; you choose to be a flawed part of a flawed world, and only then are you relieved. No longer an impostor nor traitor, but finally the human being you, unapologetically fulfilling the human destiny. Once again, I can't find fault in George Orwell.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Christy

    I have not sympathized with a protagonist quite so much in a good while. Gordon Comstock is turning thirty, has no money, works in a bookshop, is a failing poet, and refuses to take a "good" job because of his socialist ideals and his war against the money-god, and it's chief symbol: the aspidistra that sits in the window of every British middle-class home. Kind of like a less talk-the-talk Frank Wheeler. The hideous grimness of Gordon's soul-destroying poverty, the way he sinks into inevitable d I have not sympathized with a protagonist quite so much in a good while. Gordon Comstock is turning thirty, has no money, works in a bookshop, is a failing poet, and refuses to take a "good" job because of his socialist ideals and his war against the money-god, and it's chief symbol: the aspidistra that sits in the window of every British middle-class home. Kind of like a less talk-the-talk Frank Wheeler. The hideous grimness of Gordon's soul-destroying poverty, the way he sinks into inevitable decay, the doing without, the saving face - is vaguely familiar. His yet-to-be mistress, Rosemary, is far more understanding and generous than Gordon and his pretensions deserve but all comes to a good end. This may become one of my favorites; I have sat with Gordon in the drafty, dusty bookshop (only ours is neither, ha ha); have been in his frigid bare room, eating pathetically, going without tobacco (substitute coffee - Gordon is who I am afraid I will become. And things will get worse for him. But ultimately, there may be hope for Gordon and Rosemary. Please read this if you work in a bookshop. Or your pocket is pinched.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Toby

    Gordon Comstock is a truly insufferable bore to spend time with and this book whilst not a chore to read was pretty tame and predictable in nature. Comstock's arc from anti-capitalist to middle class conformist is essentially the same argument some douchey dudebro might make about lesbians - all they need is some good dick (see Chasing Amy for a popular example of said attitude explored by somebody half sensitive to the idea that it is the moron character who spouts it) and in this examle yes, O Gordon Comstock is a truly insufferable bore to spend time with and this book whilst not a chore to read was pretty tame and predictable in nature. Comstock's arc from anti-capitalist to middle class conformist is essentially the same argument some douchey dudebro might make about lesbians - all they need is some good dick (see Chasing Amy for a popular example of said attitude explored by somebody half sensitive to the idea that it is the moron character who spouts it) and in this examle yes, Orwell is some douchey middle class pre-war dudebro who thinks that capitalism is a wonderful thing and all socialists need is educating, or their eyes opening to the sturdy goodness, because at heart everybody is an aspidistra flying capitalist. Comstock is what Jarvis Cocker was singing about in Common People, he truly believes that the chipstains and grease are an option for the people he is slumming with, the way he simply has a bath and goes back to middle class capitalism has its parallels with the girl who can just call her dad and get him to wire her some more cash. A dreadful human being really. That it is apparently a semiautobiographical works tells me all I need to know about Orwell and will be enough of an explanation as to why I will not read any more of his nonsense. Give me Patrick Hamilton or Julian MacLaren-Ross any day of the week over this flim-flam.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tiziana

    Objectively speaking, I am not sure that this is really a five-star book. But it certainly has affected me like one, hence my 'grade'. I have read it compulsively because despite being for many aspects so far away in time and setting (the book solidly mirrors and describes the social context of the Thirties in England), to me it felt so 'true', that it was almost too real. The thing is that the book deals with things that have started to trouble me personally now that I am settling in, that I hav Objectively speaking, I am not sure that this is really a five-star book. But it certainly has affected me like one, hence my 'grade'. I have read it compulsively because despite being for many aspects so far away in time and setting (the book solidly mirrors and describes the social context of the Thirties in England), to me it felt so 'true', that it was almost too real. The thing is that the book deals with things that have started to trouble me personally now that I am settling in, that I have just started my first proper job, and that the 'rest of my life' has begun. Despite his harshness and stubborness, in Gordon Cormistock, the protagonist, I have traced my own concerns, my own disillusionment and disappointment. In him I have found my fears and temptations, and the dangers of coalescing with the pressures that society, family and friends exert on us. The dilemma that so many of us are faced with at some crucial point in our lives: should I follow my dream, or should I opt for normality, safety, a 'good job'? But also, more subtly (because Orwell's novel is not as black-and-white as that): isn't the first option another form of betrayal towards ourselves, towards the dreamers that we used to be? Because maybe it's all about understanding that you can't win, and that to grow up is to accept this deepest form of disillusionment. The novel itself is extremely well-observed, precise, honest. I respect George Orwell even more, after reading it.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    I really loved this book. You know how when the writer decides to put you through a fairly unsympathetic character and you find that he shares some of your own traits and such....only to be kind of depressed and oddly fascinated by the experience? This is one of the unknown Orwell books, and for that reason it should be read by everyone who's gotten into the bigger hits and really gotten into them. The whole point is that it's not being 'artistic' to decide to mope around and hate everything. It's I really loved this book. You know how when the writer decides to put you through a fairly unsympathetic character and you find that he shares some of your own traits and such....only to be kind of depressed and oddly fascinated by the experience? This is one of the unknown Orwell books, and for that reason it should be read by everyone who's gotten into the bigger hits and really gotten into them. The whole point is that it's not being 'artistic' to decide to mope around and hate everything. It's difficult to free yourself from the vanities and the hypcricies of the society around you. But, as the man said, if you try sometimes...you might find...you get what you need.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    Oh, what an ode to the money-Gods and aspidistras. An amazing, emotional journey of one man's fight against aspidistras and the inevitable pull of the money-Gods. This is a novel that is warm, hard, depressing, funny, absurd and at the end virtuous and redeeming. He simultaneously threads the needles of commerce, class, art and protest and weaves his story with satire and pathos, but doesn't make caricatures of ANY of his characters. Oh, what an ode to the money-Gods and aspidistras. An amazing, emotional journey of one man's fight against aspidistras and the inevitable pull of the money-Gods. This is a novel that is warm, hard, depressing, funny, absurd and at the end virtuous and redeeming. He simultaneously threads the needles of commerce, class, art and protest and weaves his story with satire and pathos, but doesn't make caricatures of ANY of his characters.

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