Just ahead of the latest episode of our nightly audio adventure for members of The Mark Steyn Club, a quick reminder that I'll be on the telly with Tucker in an hour or so.
Across the planet, Steyn Clubber Tony Biggs writes from the State of Victoria:
I'm enjoying your presentation of Nineteen Eighty-Four. A book title one often hears mentioned, usually using the term 'Orwellian' to describe some gastly piece of authoritarian behaviour. To my mind the story has always appeared to be anti authoritarian, but there must be some readers who get a kick out of Governing, using strong arm tactics, intimidation, fear and violence. I can see a time where the term, 'Orwellian' could be positive, for the power hungry...
PS, love Tales for Our Time. I'm working my way through your back catalogue. I started with the adventure and espionage novels. They kept me sane during the Melbourne Lockdown.
Thank you, Tony. As Winston Smith will have cause to reflect, sanity is in increasingly short supply. But yes: I notice that many of those on TV and radio who use the word "Orwellian" have obviously not read - or listened to - Nineteen Eighty-Four. So, in a sense, it's already removed from its origins. Once that's done, it's not such a leap for it to mean the precise opposite of what was originally intended: Zuckerberg and Dorsey are behaving in a very Orwellian manner; yet they are also impeccable liberals in very good standing; therefore Orwellian must be a compliment.
If, like Tony, you're new to the Club, or if the day's developments simply make you despair, there's nothing healthier than taking a short break from the hell of the hamster-wheel news-cycle and exploring the delights of our Tales for Our Time home page. It's configured in Netflix tile style, with the stories organized by category - thrillers, fantasy, romance, etc - which we hope will make it easy for you to find a favorite diversion of an evening.You can access almost four dozen of our cracking yarns here - and all previous episodes of our current adventure here.
And with that welcome to Part Eleven of Orwell's far too timely tale. In tonight's episode of Nineteen Eighty-Four, unlike our Tales for Our Time home page, there is no repository of literary delights to be found:
There was a small bookcase in the other corner, and Winston had already gravitated towards it. It contained nothing but rubbish. The hunting-down and destruction of books had been done with the same thoroughness in the prole quarters as everywhere else. It was very unlikely that there existed anywhere in Oceania a copy of a book printed earlier than 1960.
The old man, still carrying the lamp, was standing in front of a picture in a rosewood frame which hung on the other side of the fireplace, opposite the bed... It was a steel engraving of an oval building with rectangular windows, and a small tower in front. There was a railing running round the building, and at the rear end there was what appeared to be a statue. Winston gazed at it for some moments. It seemed vaguely familiar, though he did not remember the statue...
'I know that building,' said Winston finally. 'It's a ruin now. It's in the middle of the street outside the Palace of Justice.'
'That's right. Outside the Law Courts. It was bombed in--oh, many years ago. It was a church at one time, St Clement Danes, its name was.' He smiled apologetically, as though conscious of saying something slightly ridiculous, and added:
'Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St Clement's!'
'What's that?' said Winston.
'Oh--"Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St Clement's." That was a rhyme we had when I was a little boy.'
"Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St Clement's"? That would be, according to taste, the church of either St Clement Danes or St Clement's Eastcheap. Orwell favors Danes, and so do we, in honor of the above-mentioned antipodean Steyn Clubber Tony Biggs - because St Clement Danes sits just across the end of Aldwych from Australia House, famed around the world as the site where High Commissioner Alexander Downer was debriefed by Peter Strzok on the former's meeting with George Papadopoulos. It may even feature in the any-day-now Durham Report.
Notwithstanding its atrocious accumulation of false rhymes, "Oranges and Lemons" is a nursery rhyme every child and adult in Britain would have known when Orwell published his novel in 1949. Therefore, it would have seemed astonishing to his first readers that it could have been vaporized from public consciousness by 1984. It seems to me that in the last twenty years it largely has vanished - not through totalitarianism but by our new 24/7 pocket-sized diversion-machines through which the hyper-present has largely obliterated the past.
Yet not at our squaresville site: If you've yet to hear any of our Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club and enjoy our nightly audio adventures every evening twenty minutes before lowering your lamp - or hoard the episodes and binge-listen at the weekend or on a long car journey, if your government still permits you to take one. For more details on that and other benefits to Steyn Club membership, see here - and don't forget our special Gift Membership.
Please join me right here tomorrow evening for another episode of Nineteen Eighty-Four.