17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2008
Mr. Lebedoff's thematic portrait of Messrs. Orwell (Blair) and Waugh is commendable for the true power of ideas and how they are used in the hands of masters---in a book remarkable in it's brevity. I would tend to agree with another reviewer that Mr. Lebedoff over-reaches (just a bit) when he describes these two remarkable men as the "greatest" of their generation----which is, of course, subjective (Lewis has my vote as being in their company). Nonetheless, this small volume is a magnificent contribution to our era of "political correctness" and the breath-taking lack of diverse intellectual inquiry at the university. Mr. Lebedoff correctly concludes that these two men, Orwell and Waugh, while vastly different were one in concluding that "modernity" holds much peril for the essential moral foundation on which Western civilization precariously rests.
A few quotes jumped off the page:
"What they had most in common was a hatred of moral relativism. They both believed that morality is absolute, though they defined and applied it differently. But each believed with all his heart, brain, and soul that there were such things as moral right and moral wrong, and that these were not subject to changes in fashion. Moral relativism was, in fact, the gravest of sins. Everything else they believed in common flowed from this basic perception."
"They opposed totalitarianism, period, and they opposed it with all their hearts...What both believed---their core, who they are---was that individual freedom mattered more than anything else on earth and reliance on tradition was the best way to maintain it."
"Their most fundamental concern was that the Modern Age would strip human beings of their humanity. They felt that man does not live by bread alone, and that the Modern Age would provide us exclusively with bread.
This little volume was a true pleasure---a breath of fresh air in a culture (world) of homogenized group think---and is has my highest possible recommendation. This book will find it's way to many of my friends as a gift---and all of my children.
Congratulations to Mr. Lebedoff!!! He is to be commended for a great work!!! I'm going to read it again this weekend!!
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2008
"The Same Man" is a winning dual biography of George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh, two giants of 20th century English prose. Apart from the book's frequently witty and consistently lucid style, perhaps its most memorable feature is its unusual thesis. Its author, David Lebedoff, claims that the two distinguished writers, often thought of as polar opposites of Left Wing and Right, had more important features in common than differences. While it's true, for example, that the Catholic Tory Waugh was a social upstart and the socialist Orwell a sort of "downstart," both men at the same time were serious moralists who shared a detestation of then fashionable moral relativism. Each had a firm belief in right and wrong and an unwavering commitment to that all-important common sense and individual freedom, high among the worthiest features of English tradition. When large segments of the British intelligentsia, for instance, were infected with a spirit of capitulation and all agog over whether wisdom lay in supporting Hitler or Stalin, both Orwell and Waugh made clear their open and intense disdain for the two dictators. Similarly, if Waugh sucked up to the titled classes, his novels are nevertheless filled with mockery of the frequent emptiness of the lives of such worldlings, as Orwell himself might have suggested. Similarly, Orwell, for all his left-leaning, was a severe critic of Stalin and a bitter foe of communism long before most British movers and shakers had to admit that "the god ...[had] failed." Waugh, a believer in the supreme importance of the afterlife, could have suggested that Orwell adopt such a gimlet-eyed view toward all other merely political attempts to improve the human condition as he'd demonstrated here.
We know that Orwell and Waugh, despite their differences, deeply admired each other's work. In their letters and single meeting shortly before Orwell's death, as Lebedoff reports, we have specific evidence of their mutual respect and civility. Lebedoff saves his best surprise for last, suggesting Waugh may have regarded Orwell, the self-denying leftist primarily interested in improving the world, as in fact "saintly."
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
One of the pleasures of wandering through a brick-and-mortar bookstore is the opportunity to stumble across a marvelous book quite by chance. Such was the case with David Lebedoff's small but substantial "The Same Man". A dual biography of George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh, "The Same Man" proposes to show that for all their external differences Orwell and Waugh were essentially two sides of the same coin. I thought this a difficult almost impossible task. I was wrong. Lebedoff's thesis is a compelling one and one he supports with both substance and no small amount of charm.
Lebedoff's Prologue sets out the external difference between Waugh and Orwell in a compelling manner. He takes a night in June 1930. It is one in which Waugh attends a grand dinner party in London thrown by the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. That same night, Lebedoff takes us to Leeds where Eric Blair/Orwell sits working in a shabby ill-lit room. To his friends and family Orwell was considered a sponger and a failure. As the narrative continues, Lebedoff points to the various other external differences between the men. Waugh seems to wish for nothing more than an opportunity (via marriage if need be) to turn his blood as blue as possible. His drive to insinuate himself into the upper reaches of Britain's aristocracy was obsessive. Orwell's path of downward mobility was as driven and as seemingly obsessive as Waugh's. Waugh was religious, a convert to Catholicism, and his faith deepened as the years went on. Orwell was secular and was as committed to his secular view of the world as possible. Their writing was also markedly different. Where Waugh may be said to have used a comic lens for his work I think it fair to say that Orwell used a much darker, despairing lens for his.
Lebedoff proceeds to lay out his case and his case may be summarized by the quotation that began this review. Both Orwell and Waugh strove mightily and wrote splendidly in search of or within "that little and certain compass." Lebedoff writes of both as appalled by the moral relativism of the day and I think that assessment is spot on. For both men truth is not nor could it ever be relative and the search for objective truth cannot or should not be distorted by the prevailing ideology of the day. The differences in writing and the window dressing of social caste pale, in Lebedoff's view, to this one great internal commonality - their possession of this fixed moral compass. I'm not sure I am in total agreement with Lebedoff's viewpoint but he makes his case well.
Two aspects of "The Same Man" stand out for me. First, Lebedoff's writing style is light and witty. Lebedoff writes in a conversational style that is neither leaden nor pretentious. This is not a literary deconstruction aimed at academics. But, at the same time Lebedoff avoids a trap that popular historians and/or biographers sometime fall into; he does not condescend to the reader. This is not "Orwell & Waugh for Dummies." The book also caused me to cast a new and measurably more informed eye over Waugh. I had made the all too common mistake of conflating the vapid, effete, empty-headed characters Waugh wrote about with the character of Waugh himself. I admit to sloughing Waugh off as a young man but "The Same Man" compelled me to correct that error. I've since read Scoop and Vile Bodies and am thankful for Lebedoff for being the causative factor in that act. I consider that high praise for Lebedoff. L. Fleisig
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 2008
This rather short book is chock-full of information and insight (and a great deal of wit) regarding two of England's most gifted and important writers: George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh.
There's much to recommend David Lebedoff's thesis that Orwell and Waugh, despite tremendous differences in lifestyle and worldview, shared a foundational commonality. Lebedoff makes a strong case that both men, far wiser than H.G. Wells and other utopians, recognized that Modernism would be the cause of Western Civilization's downfall.
The synthesis of all heresies, as Pope Saint Pius X so memorably defined this calamitous creed, Modernism demands a great deal. Indeed, it will settle for nothing less than a complete break with the past, with tradition, with continuity. It both engenders and needs a somnolent and faithless people, easily satisfied with bread and circus and readily seduced by the meaningless rhetoric of a ruling class; an elite that pays lip service to democratic ideals, but cares only for securing its own pleasure-seeking lifestyle. In short, our current age; a decadent and degenerate era that daily sinks deeper into a cesspool of stupidity, infantilism, coarseness, brutality, and just plain pointlessness. One may safely assume that neither Orwell nor Waugh shed this mortal coil with a smile on their lips.
A couple of negatives. First, Lebedoff's contention that Orwell and Waugh are the two greatest English writers of the 20th century is highly subjective at best. What about G.K. Chesterton? And C.S. Lewis? The latter's "That Hideous Strength" is an amazing book that brilliantly addresses core Orwellian themes. Second, Lebedoff's condemnation of the post-Orwell/Waugh world is somewhat marred by his railing against the abuse of language in general and the use of e-mail in particular. He's not wrong, but in a world of abortion-on-demand and other horrors, his indignation regarding a computer's delete key is somewhat misplaced.
That being said, this is a fine book and I do indeed recommend it.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2008
Wow! Lebedoff's best work yet, and it is so great to see him allowed to express his dry sense of humor. Orwell has been an idol of mine for a long time, but I did not know much about Waugh before reading this. Now that I have, I am even more fascinated by Orwell's accomplishments and complex character, and I am going to read Brideshead revisited as soon as possible. The book is an in depth character study of two apparent opposites with suprising connections, and a common bond of deep moral indignation and strength. A wonderful, amusing, and compelling read.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2008
This is a very enjoyable book to read. I read it while driving across the United States on my vacation. I must definitely read it again.
Lebedoff has done his research very well. He has identified the essence of the similarities in the literary diction of both of Waugh and Orwell. It was very rewarding to read of Blair's, i.e., Orwell's, the U-upbringing, education and diction and his political-artistic rebellion against it. Equally rewarding was to read about Waugh's genuine transformation into the upper classes as well as the genuineness of his of his religious conversion. The notes on Orwell's hidden faith and Christian burial will make some of his radical socialist admirers wince -- good! A totally pleasurable read as high class literary salon chatter: where we come and go talking of Orwell and Waugh, and serious analysis of the literary and social in England.
Lebedoff slips off his literary platform when he makes comments about current American political and religious conservative supposed principles and practices.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2008
Looking back over fifty years, Dave Lebedoff sees two men, from differing backgrounds and experience who, in their literary works,presciently saw what now appears to be the truth: a decline of morality, and the substitution of situational ethics. Celebrity seems to define our world, and we have no societal fibre which recognizes any higher power. We will sign anywhere as free agents. This book is a good read: witty in the best sense, thorougly researched and it makes a point.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A book presenting a different viewpoint from which to evaluate two great English authors, Orwell and Waugh.
David Lebedoff makes an extended argument that these two, although wildly unalike in terms of life style and religion, were both masters of English prose and insightful moral thinkers of the first order.
I benefited from Mr. Lebedoff's own thinking, presented in the latter part of his book, on the current state of affairs as to writing (e-mail), politically correct behavior (group think), and the sorry lack of time devoted by most to the great questions of life.
I also join Mr. Lebedoff in highly recommending Evelyn Waugh's grandson's recent book, "Fathers and Sons".
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2009
While I was fascinated by much of the biographical detail in this comparative study and am entirely sympathetic to Lebedoff's critique of the intellectual elites and the pc dogma & moral relativism that flow from their arrogant self-regard, I found his "same man" thesis to be contrived and unconvincing. By forcing Orwell and Waugh into the "same man" construct, Lebedoff (totally without intent) demeans Orwell whose extraordinary political courage, character and legacy remain unequalled and have no comparable analogue in Waugh who is little read today and who, even in his day, was not much more than an uncommonly fine prose stylist with an ostentatiously idiosyncratic lifestyle.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I was intrigued by the title of this book, and interested to read the case being made for the similarities between George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh. Based on my admittedly fairly superficial knowledge of the private men behind the published authors, I could see more disparity than similarity.
The obvious similarities I see are in their broadly contemporaneous life experience and the world events seen, Janus-like, from different perspectives. The point made by Mr Lebedoff which most appealed was the role of faith (or lack thereof) in each man's interpretation of the world and approach to the future. In Orwell's case, according to Lebedoff, it was his lack of faith which led him to choose this world over the next and he `sacrificed' his health (and ultimately) his life to try to change it. In Waugh's case, his belief in the hereafter influenced his view and portrayal of the world he lived in. I would need to read and reflect further to see whether I completely agree with this, but instinctively it appeals.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is specifically interested in comparing Waugh and Orwell or to readers who are more generally interested in the different forms that writer observation and motivation may take. The book is neither long nor difficult to read and whether you share all, some or any of Mr Lebedoff's conclusions, there is food for thought. For myself, I ended up with a greater liking for Orwell than for Waugh but I am now going to test this by reading more of the works of each of them. Both, in my view, are great authors. While I think that some of Mr Lebedoff's conclusions are too neat, I admire the way in which he has reached them.