Review Summary: "'We Are the Dead:' Winston Gets A Raw Deal"Consider the power of prophecy.
Enter. Enter. Thus began my paper (the
paper, the one that nearly killed me, and yes, that’s possible) on George Orwell's 1984
. The class: Contemporary British Fiction. The time: February, 2013, do the math. The place: Somewhere in Fogland, Tennessee. It was around this time that The Flaming Lips' thirteenth album dropped, unofficially, via Our Bleeding Leakosphere, and never shall I forget my first listen, alone, insufficiently dressed for the cold, curled on an uneven piece of stone overlooking a hundred feet of sheer literal drop, terrified, and, I emphasize, alone. This is not a review. This is closure, the sealing off to Ganon's place of exile an essay Mark Z. Danielewski could only dream of [exaggeration], closure to an era of Southern Gothic psychedelia and despair, but more importantly Even in the current year, just clear of the Y2K-reminiscent commotion surrounding the Mayan calendar, this much is evident: forecasts for a stranger tomorrow still manage to wheedle their way into our national and international consciousnesses. There is, however, a major difference between modern prophets and the cartoonish thought of a bearded Nostradamus scouring the visionary astral plane. This difference is manifest in the ludicrosity of such a thought. Therefore, prophecy in a biblical or otherwise eschatological sense is outdated, debunked by time, science, or fact, and has passed into the hands of pop-culture. What remains of the classic prophetic sensibility is much subtler. It now comes from within, where a person can convince himself he has taken shelter from the insincerity of fabulists, in the guise of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Winston Smith, the rebellious protagonist of George Orwell's
1984, serves as a warning against this approach to reality, which at its most extreme turns life into fiction and at its basest turns fiction into life, and which is a delusion from either end of the possible means, the consequence of which is depersonalization, a sort of death.
Now where was I? The paper was already a day late. I had just started. One paragraph. English majors…say 4:15 if you want 'em there by half-past. My roommate walks in. Was it at this moment I knew I was losing my mind? "Sorry," I'd told Professor P. four hours earlier, as the others turned theirs in, wondering simultaneously whether it wasn’t terribly cheap to touch upon his, P.'s, musings be wary of words that end conversation
(see: “sustainability;” but whyyyy I thought) musings I supposed he supposed allowed closure to the unit, a bridge to Brideshead Revisited
. Haha. "I'll have it finished tomorrow." He grinned. He was thirtysomething, rotund, composed, looked like Roy from The Office, he reminded me of O'Brien. "You sure about that?" My dorm was a ten minutes' walk from central campus. A renovated hospital. Red spiral staircases. Surgical lamps for chandeliers. My roommate walked in, stylishly, speaking of sustainable sofas or something, totally sustainable, art class. And that was all. Oh, God. By the end of Winston’s odyssey he is a husk, emotionally and cognitively. Sentimental flashbacks which once fueled his pining for a lost age are dismissed as "false memories" (243) as he stagnates into a patriotic reverie for his province’s dystopian code of existence, waiting freely and happily for the same death sentence he feared from the novel’s first chapter.
My name is Daniel Smith, and I am, currently, a recovering critic, of music and of people and of abstractions, of anything that might be infected by irony. Wink wink. I spent a semester composing verse around the Ouroboros; it came full circle, finally, and shat and shed into itself. Sincerity and honesty are not mutually exclusive. I'm burnt out on poems. As far as author/character relationships go, Orwell is not kind to Winston, positioning him as a busy-worker within the lower ranks of the oligarchy of Oceania. From a metaphorical perspective, he fixes Winston square in the hands of the body politic itself, a body whose only prescribed crime is unorthodox thought, and this placement could have not been worse
…but more importantly, I just want to say something that’s real. Who doesn't? Phew. It's not easy revisiting your failures, because what's realer than something you touched but, alas, could never grasp. The thing that exhausted you, that's now a rabbit in the ether but for to dog down avenues of maybes and could-haves, to size up, aggrandized. But no. I warned you. This isn't a routine check-up to the Brain Bank, the Nursing Home, the Hospital. Closure. A final kibble for Old Yeller, then when considering books that might, in Professor [K’s] words, "wreck" a class or, in my case, a paper, I don't think of a novel I fell in love with on a flight to Denver eight or so summers ago;
1984 is no literary whale, neither
Ulysses nor metamodern opus, and yet here I am, first-person essaying with no time and too many directions. Consider the power of prophecy, began this essay's embryo a little too aptly, for as soon as I settled down to churn it out my roommate dropped by. He had been working on an art project, a construction-paper chair which was totally sustainable. He went on to describe the mechanics of his political science class, employing frequent use, I noted, of words like localized, industrialized, sustainable (again; this is apparently a very defining word). I recalled your suggestion that 1984 is most relevant today in large universities
let the rodent go, hop-hop, never to multiply again. Aimless pieces of little data. Nameless. You wake up and find yourself relatively normal again. Happy. Question mark. OK then: listening to The Terror
is a lot like trying to insert oneself beyond that which is his person, attempting to make the author the thesis in a void, tangential to everything and nothing, a Charlie Kaufman suicide. It shouldn't work and usually doesn't, but the Flips pull it off. An unrelenting assault to the heart, this record, shy of an hour’s worth of soul-striking terror. It speaks to your immune system in dirty ways, teasing ways, whorish ways. I hate it. Oh, how I hate it!
Take a deep breath, now, and answer me, my friends, my fellow hands – who are you with, the Party or the Proles?