Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Orwells – "Who Needs You" (2013)

You better save the country
You better pass the flask
You better join the army

I just finished reading Thomas Ricks’s book, Churchill & Orwell: The Fight for Freedom, which is an dual biography of two great Englishmen who had very disparate backgrounds and who never met each other.

Churchill was the wartime leader of the United Kingdom – a world-famous figure – while Orwell was an obscure writer who died shortly after 1984 (his most famous work by far) was published.  But both men fiercely defended the rights of the individual, which were severely threatened during World War II by the forces of fascism and communism. 

Both Churchill and Orwell were childhood heroes of mine, so the Ricks book was right up my alley.

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I read Orwell’s two most famous books, Animal Farm and 1984, when I was a teenager.  But I also read his minor novels – like A Clergyman’s Daughter and Keep the Aspidistra Flying – as well as much of his nonfiction.  (Ricks thinks those early novels stink, but I disagree.)  

George Orwell
Down and Out in Paris and London, Orwell’s memoir about his poverty-stricken years as a young man struggling to make enough money to eke out a living in those two great capitals, made quite an impression on me.  I’ll never forget Orwell’s account of how he applied black shoe polish to the parts of his feet that showed through the holes in his socks when he was a waiter in Paris.  (He couldn’t afford to buy new socks.)

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After I had finished the Ricks book, I recorded its title, the name of its author, and how many pages long it was in a notebook.

I’ve been keeping track of all the books I read for over 40 years.  Based on a quick flip through the notebooks where I’ve recorded the titles of those books, it looks like I’ve read over 2500 books in the past 40 years.

The books I read in the first
 seven months of 1979
One reason I’ve done that is so I don’t inadvertently read a book I’ve already read.  But my primary motivation has been vanity.  (I’m using “vanity” here in the sense that it is used in Ecclesiastes – which is that human accomplishments are ultimately of no significance.)  

My list of books read is of little significance now, and it will be of no significance after I’m dead.  (Anyone who believes otherwise is a fool.)

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I read almost as much now as I did 20 or 40 years ago, but I may have allowed myself to get into something of a reading rut.

I read some nonfiction – mostly history and biography.  But I mostly read crime novels.

I don’t apologize for that.  I think that crime novels by writers such as George Pelecanos, Michael Connelly, Lawrence Block, Ian Rankin, Malcolm Mackay, Leif G. W. Persson, Henning Mankell, and Karin Fossum (to name just a few) are just as deserving of serious consideration as any more “literary” novels.

But I want to broaden my horizons a bit.  For one thing, I need to read some of the classics – Dostoyevsky, Melville, Henry James, Proust – that I’ve been telling myself for years that I would read some day when I had more time.

(I won't be reading it in French)
I’m 65 and retired now.  Time’s a-wastin’ – I don’t have forever.  Watch out, À la recherche du temps perdu – ready or not, here I come!

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The five members of the Orwells grew up together in a Chicago suburb, and they signed their first record deal when they were still in high school.  

I assume that the band is named for George Orwell, but I’ve been unable to confirm that.

Today’s featured song, “Who Needs You,” was first released on the EP of the same name in 2013.  It was also included on the band’s second studio album, 2014’s Disgraceland.

The Orwells did “Who Needs You” live on the Late Show with David Letterman in 2014.  At the end of their rather bizarre performance, Letterman called for a reprise of the song.  But the band was unable to play – its lead guitarist had broken all of the strings on his guitar.  Paul Shaffer and the Letterman house band picked up where the Orwells left off and played the last part of the song while the show’s closing credits rolled.

Here’s a video of the Orwells and the Letterman house band performing:

Here’s the studio version of “Who Needs You”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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