Customer Reviews


30 Reviews
5 star:
 (14)
4 star:
 (10)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:
 (3)
1 star:
 (3)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great short collection of essays
Why I Write is a collection of four pieces by one of the best writers of the twentieth century. George Orwell is best known for his political fables Animal Farm and 1984, but was also a prolific essayist and author of numerous short stories, many of them based on his own experiences in British-controlled Burma. This books includes three essays--"Why I Write", "The Lion...
Published on June 23, 2006 by Jordan M. Poss

versus
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy the Kindle version by Crabbit House
Well, there was Our Man eager to read the four essays that are mentioned in the product description. But lo and behold when you buy the Kindle edition by Crabbit House for a steal at under $2.00, it only includes the one 15-screen essay, Why I Write, which is freely available on Google. The other three essays, that are in the description, are not included in the...
Published on May 28, 2012 by Patrick Sherriff


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great short collection of essays, June 23, 2006
By 
Jordan M. Poss (South Carolina, United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Why I Write (Penguin Great Ideas) (Paperback)
Why I Write is a collection of four pieces by one of the best writers of the twentieth century. George Orwell is best known for his political fables Animal Farm and 1984, but was also a prolific essayist and author of numerous short stories, many of them based on his own experiences in British-controlled Burma. This books includes three essays--"Why I Write", "The Lion and the Unicorn", and "Politics and the English Language"--and the short story "A Hanging."

"Why I Write" offers the reader a look into one great writer's motivations for writing, as Orwell lays out the only real reasons anyone writes. "The Lion and the Unicorn" is fascinating, not only for its often humorous descriptions of the British national character, but for the political ideas expressed in it and the knowledge, made clear by Orwell at the beginning, that this was written in the midst of the Blitz. "Politics and the English Language" is a brief guide to the fatal flaws of modern writing--all of which have lasted beyond Orwell--and how to mend them. "A Hanging" is reminiscent of another of Orwell's famous short stories, "Shooting the Elephant," as it describes an otherwise mundane action in ominous, metaphoric terms.

While hardly exhaustive, this collection of Orwell's essays is a good introduction to Orwell, his writings, and his political views. Makes very good reading for a trip, which is where I read it.

Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Question is: Why Should I Buy this particular "Why I write?" Compilation?, September 28, 2008
This review is from: Why I Write (Penguin Great Ideas) (Paperback)
In evaluating "Why I write?," I am not evaluating Orwell: he is - in my opinion - beyond evaluation. Brilliant, unorthodox, humanistically transparent - he is a model of existential integrity. In evaluating "Why I write?" I am offering an evaluation of this particular compilation of essays. I am trying to answer the question of "Why should I buy the 'Why I write?'"

This particular compilation of Orwell's essays consists of "Why I write?," The Lion and the Unicorn," "A Hanging," and "Politics and the English Language." As you might have already gleaned from you search, the books of Orwell's essays are all over the market place. This one - consisting of four iconic essays - is a great primer.

The "Why I write?" humbles with introspection and humanistic self-acceptance. "The Lion and the Unicorn" showcases Orwell's keen journalism and the capacity to be on the outside of the phenomenon in question, even when that phenomenon is his own culture. "A Hanging" is a normalizing glimpse into how we deal with our own mortality superimposed onto a social statement against capital punishment. And the "Politics and the English Language" is a brilliant examination of the human consciousness, a study of the interplay of thought and language, an anti-dote to propoganda, a treasure trove of linguistic hypotheses, and, if nothing else, a useful commentary on the rationale behind the "1984" Newspeak and Doublethink.

As such, this particular collection of Orwell's essays reveals the breadth of his thematic spectrum - without the biographical weight of more exhaustive essay compilations.

Pavel Somov, Ph.D.

Author of "Eating the Moment: 141 Mindful Practices to Overcome Overeating One Meal at a Time" (New Harbinger, 2008)
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy the Kindle version by Crabbit House, May 28, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Why I Write (Kindle Edition)
Well, there was Our Man eager to read the four essays that are mentioned in the product description. But lo and behold when you buy the Kindle edition by Crabbit House for a steal at under $2.00, it only includes the one 15-screen essay, Why I Write, which is freely available on Google. The other three essays, that are in the description, are not included in the collection. A steal all right, but not the good kind.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inside the mind of George Orwell, July 20, 2008
This review is from: Why I Write (Penguin Great Ideas) (Paperback)
Here is your chance to go into the thoughts and political beliefs of the famous writer George Orwell with the filter of his fictional writings removed. This work contains four short essays. In the first essay "Why I write" you really get an understanding of the man and his motivations to write. He is very candid in this essay and you get to know the man behind "Animal Farm" and "1984".

In his second essay "The Lion and the Unicorn" he lays bare his political beliefs. In this short work he lays out his thoughts about Communism, Fascism, and Socialism and the struggle between them in England during World War II. What I really liked about this essay is that he wrote it while bombs were falling on London and with the outcome of World War II still undecided. While I strongly disagree with Orwell's Socialist ideals, they may have been more appropriate for his time period in his country. I enjoyed reading his opinions and learning about the social situation at that time in history.

His third very brief essay tells about his witness to a hanging in Burma.

The final essay is excellent in its examples of how in his time writers using the English language were drifting away from clarity and into using metaphors, similes, and figures of speech. He calls for a return to the clear and precise use of the language. He writes of six rules that will make that happen.

If you enjoy George Orwell's writings, I believe you will enjoy this book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Behind the Writer's Perspective, July 1, 2007
By 
Henry Oliner (Macon, GA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Why I Write (Penguin Great Ideas) (Paperback)
This short (120 pages) book of 4 essays from one of the great modern writers is worth the read for three reasons:

1. The last essay, 'Politics and the English Language' should be required of all political writers and business writers as well. Though 50 years old it is equally pertinent today; well summarized in the 6 rules in the next to the last page.

2. The Hanging showed his descriptive skills, "Eight o'clock and a bugle call, desolately thin in the wet air, floated from the distant barracks." His description of the hanging of a Hindu man had more clarity than any modern photograph.

3. The Lion and the Unicorn, the longest of the essays, described the state of the English culture and its challenge from the growing European Fascists. It is an excellent picture of the British before their moment of truth. "It is a land of snobbery and privilege, ruled largely by the old and the silly.... A family with the wrong members in control." " A nation trained to think hedonistically cannot survive amid peoples who work like slaves and breed like rabbits, and whose chief national industry is war." Orwell's solution is democratic socialism; more acceptable in its day, less convincing 50- years later with the hindsight of many failures in socialism.

These essays are valuable to students of writing and to those who want to know more about the background of a great modern writer known for the classics Animal Farm and 1984.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pocket-sized Orwell, March 31, 2009
By 
Jay C. Smith (Portland, OR USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Why I Write (Penguin Great Ideas) (Paperback)
Why I Write (Penguin Great Ideas)
Like other releases in the Penguin "Great Ideas" series, this edition of Orwell's essays will fit easily into a purse or a hip pocket. That, plus the fact that it is priced to fit its brevity (120 small pages), makes it an attractive product. Carry it around with you for no more than a few days and in your spare time fit in between other activities you can read four of Orwell's most notable essays.

In the title essay, "Why I Write," he offers four possible reasons, but says that he had come around to just one in his serious efforts since the Spanish war of 1936-37: political purpose, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism. He claims that where he previously lacked political motivation he wrote just humbug.

"The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius" outlines Orwell's take on the character of the English people and his case for socialism. First published in 1940 when the future of England was in doubt, this essay holds historical interest. Certain of Orwell's opinions and forecasts now seem right on, but others off the mark. For example, he expresses too much confidence in the ability of the state to efficiently decide how much of what goods should be produced (though perhaps an understandable position in the face of war time shortages).

"A Hanging" describes exactly that, an event in Burma in about 1931. Some have questioned whether Orwell really witnessed this episode, but no matter, the pathos holds whether it is fact or fiction.

The final piece, "Politics and the English Language," exposes how political actors use language to mislead, quotes several passages illustrating certain "mental vices" writers often commit, and catalogs six rules for good writing (for instance, never use a long word where a short one will do). In these four selections Orwell mostly follows his own advice: the essays are exemplary in their clarity.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good overview of Orwell the Writer and the Man, August 3, 2007
By 
Yoda (Hadera, Israel) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Why I Write (Penguin Great Ideas) (Paperback)
This book provides a good overview of who Orwell is, in terms of both a writer and a man, in his own words. He explains why he writes, his political views and the imporance he subscribes to political writing. If you are looking to fulfill your curiosity with respect to the above no other book does it better. The only weak spot of the book (why I give it 4 instead of 5 stars) is that it has references to many historical events/facts that, unless you are a student of history (particulary Orwell's times) are not common knowledge. The editors should have placed more footnotes to assist non-students of history. If you are very knowledgeable of the history of the times, however, it should be a five star book for you.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating collection of essays from a great writer, October 16, 2011
By 
Alan Mills (Chicago, Illinois USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Why I Write (Penguin Great Ideas) (Paperback)
This is a collection of four essays (note that the table of contents displayed by Amazon is WRONG--there are only four short essays, not the twenty or so Amazon lists): "Why I Write," "The Lion and the Unicorn" (the longest), "A Hanging," and "Politics and the English Language." Each is great in its own way.

"Why I Write" is exactly what the title suggests: a brief statement from Orwell of what drove him to become a writer. In short, because he was a narrator at heart, because he loved language, and because he hated everything else he tried.

"The Lion and the Unicorn" is written in the middle of WWII, literally as Germany is bombing London. It is an extended essay on national character, and a prediction that war will ultimately change England, and usher in a socialist state. He was remarkably correct--not in all his details, but in his general point, which was that citizens saw in the depression that pure capitalism leads to disaster, and in the war that a state directed economy produces results (he predicts England will win). Thus, once the war is over, the citizens of England will have no interest in returning to the aristocratic form of capitalism that existed prior to the depression. As it turns out, he was correct. As the war wound down, Churchill was defeated, and England moved far towards socialism (national medicine, for example). One of the best lines is in his discussion of what might thwart the coming of socialism. He states that he is not afraid of German style fascism. Rather, he is worried about "an army of unemployed, lead by millionaires quoting the Sermon on th Mount." I have never read a better description of the Tea Party.

"A Hanging" is a brilliant depiction of the dehumanization of those who participate in the death penalty. Orwell's usual short, sharp phrases are excellent here.

Finally, "Politics and the English Language" starts as a mournful review of how politicians are warping English, to avoid saying what they mean. It ends with a few short rules, which everyone can (and should) use to help write short, plain sentences which are clear. Should be required reading for anyone who authors official documents!

All in all, a highly enjoyable book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fab Four, December 30, 2009
This review is from: Why I Write (Penguin Great Ideas) (Paperback)
This little book contains three fabulous essays and a story by the greatest essayist of the last century. The title WHY I WRITE is also the title of the first essay. These essays represent types as well as specific writings- types that can be found in other essay collections. This little book reveals Orwell's lost legacy as an essayist and journalist which has been overshadowed by his novels.

WHY I WRITE.Why did Orwell occupy his life with writing? His early childhood was punctuated with poetry from the age of four and ended with high school editing. I have tried to find these early writings but,alas,have failed to find anything earlier than 1920...seventeen in Orwell years. Orwell gives us insights into the reasons he writes: his ego, historical documentation, political influence (unavoidable for the citizens of the Twentieth Century according to Orwell), and ascetic impulse. Orwell, in a letter, once described himself as a "half intellectual" who avoided abstraction; here he tells us that he is concerned only with material things and "the surface of the earth." p.9.

The earthiness of Orwell's writing lead to a humble, direct style of writing that is exemplified in his essays on society. ENGLAND YOUR ENGLAND closely resembles another essay not in this book: My COUNTRY RIGHT OR LEFT.

ENGLAND YOUR ENGLAND discusses the changes and characteristics of England at war. The crumbling British Empire with its useless class peerage system is seen as doomed not only by a possible NAZI victory but the technocracy creatd by a large, growing middle class. England is seen as incipient revolutionary society with an expected upheaval in "six months to a year" from 1940- which could not be stopped unless England was invaded. In MY COUNTRY... the revolution was also incipient but would be marked by "Red militias at the Ritz" and "bloody London gutters." One revolution by the supplanting of the peerage class and yet the other as an old style proletarian uprising. The Labor Party gets short mention as being pro-capitalist since it depends on rising wages to placate union members who support the party.

The reality was the election of Winston Churchill and the Tories during the War, the post war victory of Attlee's Labor Party and the creation of the welfare state by the same middle class Orwell mentions in this essay...hardly a revolution.

A HANGING. The closest Orwell gets to Camus' THE STRANGER. A policeman observes the execution of a Burmese Hindu who dies for unknown reasons. The doomed man politely avoids a puddle before he hangs and a lone dog seems prescient about the coming death. The brutal administration of Burma was no resort hotel job...did Orwell know more about the execution than he writes about?

POLITICS AND THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE- a typical Orwell language essay. Often quoted in relation to totalitarianism. Orwell tells us that language molds thought and that " changing language will change the political climate". We are introduced to examples of bad writing and given specific rules for avoiding wasted thought "the scrapping of every word or idiom which has outworn its usefulness." Eliminating useless metaphors, operators, pretentious diction and meaningless words will change the thought life of politics and avoid the Newspeak of Big Brother.

One wonders what the prolife Orwell would have said about the political cant on the abortion issue? Would he fairly call both sides prolife or prochoice? Would he detect the media bias of only using "antiabortion" to describe prolifers while calling the other side prochoice?

Would Orwell see the internet as a manifestation of Big Brother? Interesting questions.

The essays are good and the book is worth a good commute reading. These are light and nimble essays-well written, but in the case of the social essays, not very deep. The "half intellectual" had a gift of clarity which has weathered the decades since the mid-Twentieth Century, yet his heart belonged to another time.

I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls, and woke to find it true;

I wasn't born for an age like this; was Smith? was Jones? Were you?

Poem from "Why I Write" by George Orwell, 1946
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Orwell's unique talent as a writer, November 15, 2009
By 
Hubert Shea (Shanghai, China) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Why I Write (Penguin Great Ideas) (Paperback)
In the book, George Orwell, one of the most talented and gifted writers in the English world, depicts in a frank manner about his literary writing motives and how he reconciles aesthetic enthusiasm with his political purpose.

The book consists of 4 key chapters. Chapter 1 is a full introduction of his literary journey from childhood to adulthood. Orwell maintains that a writer's real experience in life can substantially determine his/her impulse to write (P.4). The four key motives in literary writing including sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose exist in different degree in different writers, depending very much on the atmosphere he/she is living. To Orwell, the key motive to write is that he intends to tell devastating truths about non-individual and public activities with his literary writing skills without humbug, purple passages, meaningless sentences, and decorative adjectives (P.10).

Chapter 2 is about English politics during the Second World War. As a key champion of democratic Socialism, Orwell criticized decadent hypocritical and privileged high class who dominated every aspect of political and economic life in England but they failed to resist any serious war attack by Fascism (P.35). He maintained that England should undertake a wholehearted political change (P.48) if people intended not to be conquered by Hitler. Democratic Socialism could centralize all goods of production for armament purpose and unite people from top to bottom due to approximate equal distribution of income (Pp.74-76).

Chapter 3 was a hanging case in Burma. Orwell uses his literary writing skills to narrate the hanging process of a Hindu condemned prisoner. This unhappy narration is full of detailed descriptions and arresting scenario, and also full of purple passages in which Orwell's literary writing skills are demonstrated. From the condemned cell where the hanged Hindu squatted at to the gallows where the prisoner's neck was hanged for execution, Orwell looked at this sudden life and death process with great unhappiness but smiles. Chapter 4 is a critique of the decadent English language. Orwell maintains that a good piece of political writing should avoid having difficult and useless phrases and jargons (P.120) and it should be clear and meaning and short in words (P.119). In this chapter, Orwell illustrates how academicians and political writers use operators, pretension diction, dying metaphors, and meaningless words (Pp.106-109) to make their works to be a sheer humbug.

Writing can be a very exhaustive and horrible struggle, particularly for those who aspire to write a book. This book is highly recommended to readers who intend to think hard about how to write.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Why I Write (Penguin Great Ideas)
Why I Write (Penguin Great Ideas) by George Orwell (Paperback - September 6, 2005)
$12.00 $9.33
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.