Friday, February 24, 2017


What reader hasn't wanted to live inside a book at some time or other? Joust with the Knights of the Round Table! Study magic at Hogwarts! Follow Alice down that rabbit hole! Wander the Highlands with Claire and Jamie *sigh*

But probably the one book nobody wants to actually live in is George Orwell's dystopian future classic 1984.  And yet, by some horrendous, impossible turn of events, that's the world we all find ourselves trapped in right now — especially in the last month.

Written in 1949,  Orwell's dark political satire was set in a totalitarian state of the future whose figurehead was Big Brother, but was really run by an elitist behind-the-scenes Party that was constantly rewriting history and reinventing language to conform with the party line.

From Orwell, we get the concept of "newspeak" (words rewritten to mean the opposite of their original intent), "thoughtcrimes" (individual thinking pursued and punished by the "Thought Police"), "doublethink" (unquestioning belief in two mutually exclusive ideas, also called "reality control"), and the "Ministry of Truth," whose entire function is to convince the people that lies are true.

It took a little longer than Orwell envisioned for his political prophecies to come true. But now that we're living in an Orwellian nightmare of "alternative facts," it all seems oh, so horribly relevant.

So relevant that the New York Times reports that sales of the novel have skyrocketed as of January of this year — and we all know what happened then.

But lucky Santa Cruzans won't have to go hunting down your dusty copies from sophomore English or trolling though used book shelves. Our very own Bookshop Santa Cruz is staging a reading of 1984, and you, the public, are invited.

Beginning at 10 am, Thursday, March 2, a rotating lineup of educators, activists, authors, and normal people from the community will read the novel aloud in 20-minute stretches. All of it. Cover to cover. Until the book is finished, whenever that may be.

Chairs will be set up in Bookshop's skylight room throughout the event; fall by and stay for a chapter or two, or stick around for the whole thing. It's up to you; this is a free country (so far).

While you're there, check out the table set up for people to write postcards with 1984 quotes to send to their elected officials.

This event is presented by Bookshop, the Wellstone Center in the Redwoods, and Wallace Baine. It's also the opening salvo in Bookshop's new Words To Act On program, to promote community, inspiration, critical thinking, and activism through books.

And, yes, yours truly will be one of the readers. I'm slotted for an evening shift, between 7 and 8 pm Thursday night. But whenever you drop in, it's sure to be a lively crowd, on either side of the mic!

(Top: 1984 cover art through the ages. From designKULTUR online.)

1 comment:

  1. Indeed, it's way too Orwellian now for comfort. I hope to drop by the event. Do you need more readers?