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Quote of the moment

[NewsScan Daily 10/30/03]


The great George Orwell once gave these four reasons to explain why anyone would write a book—an act that he described as a horrible, exhausting struggle, which one would never undertake unless driven by some overpowering demon.

"1. Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on grownups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend that this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen-in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they abandon individual ambition and live chiefly for others or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong to this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.

"2. Esthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from esthetic considerations.

"3. Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

"4. Political purpose—using the word "political" in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people's idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude."

*** See http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1567921337/newsscancom/ref=nosim for a comprehensive collection of George Orwell's essays—or look for it in your favorite library. (We donate all revenue from our book recommendations to adult literacy programs.)