Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Keep the Aspidistra Flying - George Orwell

I have not sympathized with a protagonist quite so much in a good while.

Gordon Comstock is turning thirty, has no money, works in a bookshop, is a failing poet, and refuses to take a "good" job because of his socialist ideals and his war against the money-god, and it's chief symbol: the aspidistra that sits in the window of every British middle-class home. Kind of like a less talk-the-talk Frank Wheeler.

The hideous grimness of Gordon's soul-destroying poverty, the way he sinks into inevitable decay, the doing without, the saving face - is vaguely familiar. His yet-to-be mistress, Rosemary, is far more understanding and generous than Gordon and his pretensions deserve but all comes to a good end.

This may become one of my favorites; I have sat with Gordon in the drafty, dusty bookshop (only ours is neither, ha ha); have been in his frigid bare room, eating pathetically, going without tobacco (substitute coffee) - Gordon is who I am afraid I will become. And things will get worse for him. But ultimately, there may be hope for Gordon and Rosemary.

Read this if you work in a bookshop. Or your pocket is pinched.

1 comment:

Ian Woolcott said...

Orwell is great for bookshop anecdotes. He has a 1936 essay titled "Bookshop Memories" that's enjoyable reading for anyone who's ever worked in one.

I worked at a bookshop in Seattle for several years after college. It was the Tower Books on Mercer St, which isn't there anymore. I wrote up some notes about it not long ago.

Nice blog, by the way.