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ORWELL'S MESSAGE: 1984 AND THE PRESENT.

Woodcock, George.

Madeira Park (B.C.), Harbour Publishing, c1984. 193pp, paper, $9.95, ISBN 0-920080 -86-3. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Boh Kinczyk

Volume 13 Number 3
1985 May


The Crystal Spirit, Woodcock's critical survey of Orwell's work, won the Governor Generalís award for non-fiction in 1966. While Orwell's Message: 1984 and the Present complements the earlier book, it will not win any awards: it is abrasive and opinionated, a footnote that is already obsolete.

Orwell's Message begins with a literary analysis of Nineteen Eighty-Four. It discusses the novel's elegiac moods,

its romantic and satiric elements, its combination of naturalism and fantasy (that) support and at the same time are subsumed in ... its Utopian nature and its anti-utopian intent.

A discussion of Orwell's politics, and a brief lesson in twentieth-century history prepare the way for Woodcock's real message, a fifty-page pamphlet called "The Book of the year."

Here Woodcock examines Nineteen Eighty-Four on its polemical level, as a warning of tendencies at work in our world, with special emphasis on the Canadian context. At this point Woodcock becomes shrill and hysterical. His diatribe on Trudeau borders on the ridiculous:

Trudeau's reign, which was longer than Hitler's by several years, has finally come to an end. But during the sixteen years it lasted he presided over a transformation in the governmental system and the public service that enshrined power as the main motivation of political action and took Canada a long way down the path to the total state. There has been a steady erosion of parliamentary autonomy and responsibility, and the Liberal Party has become almost as impersonal a machine ó impervious to the opinions, and isolated from the feelings, of the people - as any totalitarian ruling group.

And here is Woodcock on McLuhan: (McLuhan's) pernicious concept, "The Medium is the Message" . . . led to McLuhan's becoming. . .the instant guru of industrial and advertising executives and also of those bright young manipulators with drooping Guevera moustaches and medallions on their chests who infested government offices in the later 1960s . . . Without ever declaring himself for any totalitarian ideology, McLuhan , . . spoke in favor of a world where the content of thought would be meaningless and the endlessly manipulate form would be all.

Even our much-hated political satirist Allan Fotheringham could learn something about invective and misrepresentation from Woodcock.


Boh Kinczyk, Central Elgin C.I., St. Thomas, Ont.
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