From Publishers Weekly
For those wearied by doorstop biographies, this lean and urbane dual portrait is a breath of fresh air. As lawyer and writer Lebedoff (Cleaning Up
) makes clear, on the surface no two British writers could be more different. Evelyn Waugh was a loud convert to Catholicism, an even louder social climber and very much a man of Empire. George Orwell (Eric Blair) could best be described as a long-suffering atheistic humanist, a utopian socialist and dreamer. Waugh succeeded early; Orwell was an obscure polemicist until his masterpieces Animal Farm
, which were written at the end of his life. But both men were born the same year (1903) and came from the same class. They admired each other's writing and moral courage, says Lebedoff, and finally met six months before the bed-ridden Orwell's death in 1950. Both men, the author says, rejected not only the immorality of dictators in their own time but the moral relativism they foresaw in the future. Aside from a slightly rambling chapter of summation, Lebedoff nimbly compares and contrasts the lives and art of these literary titans. 8 pages of photos. (Aug. 5)
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George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh met on only one occasion, in 1949; neither man kept a record of what happened, and perhaps the only certain outcome of the meeting is the existence of this idiosyncratic book. Offering an appreciation of two writers typically seen as opposites, Lebedoff strives for neither biographical nor critical comprehensiveness. He argues that both were essentially anti-modernist�Waugh a nostalgic moralist and Orwell a prophetic idealist�and therefore, in a sense, �the same man.� It�s a tenuous thesis that is not well served by Lebedoff�s method; his treatment of Waugh as a gifted stylist and Orwell as a truth-peddler tends to underscore rather than challenge their dissimilarities. Still, Lebedoff affirms his odd couple�s cultural relevance, using their writing as a lens to scrutinize everything from political correctness to the dangers of e-mail.
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