Programming note: Steyn's Song of the Week can now be heard weekly on Serenade Radio, every Sunday at 5.30pm British Summer Time. If you missed today's first show, you can hear the repeat at 5.30am Monday UK time - that's 9.30pm Pacific Sunday evening on the West Coast of North America, or Monday lunchtime in Australia.
Meanwhile, welcome along to the forty-eighth audio adventure in our series Tales for Our Time: As I wrote last weekend, we're starting June with some heavyweight political satire - which is why we closed out May with a rather lighter take on the subject as seen by Richmal Crompton's eternal English schoolboy William Brown.
But our meatier exploration begins today: Animal Farm by George Orwell - a prequel, as it were, to our very popular serialization from earlier this year of Nineteen Eighty-Four. The latter is a remorseless portrait of totalitarianism in its full ugly omnipresent maturity. Animal Farm, written half-a-decade earlier, commences in the earlier, idealistic phase - which, as we know from the French Revolution to the Arab Spring, never lasts long.
As we discuss in my introduction, this "fairy story" (as Orwell called it) arose from what the author learned about Stalin from finding himself in Moscow's crosshairs during the Spanish Civil War. But it has wider application, too, not least to the new world of "identity politics" to whose ramshackle coalition Orwell's barnyard bears some resemblance. And so our forty-eighth Tale for Our Time begins with an inspirational speech:
This single farm of ours would support a dozen horses, twenty cows, hundreds of sheep--and all of them living in a comfort and a dignity that are now almost beyond our imagining. Why then do we continue in this miserable condition? Because nearly the whole of the produce of our labour is stolen from us by human beings. There, comrades, is the answer to all our problems. It is summed up in a single word--Man. Man is the only real enemy we have. Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished for ever.
These days many take that literally; just remove Man (or, for the moment, Straight White Man) and the woes of the world vanish:
I had fantasies of unloading a revolver into the heads of any white person that got in my way, burying their body, and wiping my bloody hands as I walked away relatively guiltless with a bounce in my step. Like I did the world a f**king favor.
To hear the first part of Animal Farm, Mark Steyn Club members should please click here and log-in.
I hope you'll enjoy this audio serialization of the ever more relevant Orwell, but, if a year of lockdown, looting, 'lections and lab leaks have left you pining for lighter fare, we have plenty of cheerier yarns, including Jerome K Jerome's Three Men in a Boat, and P G Wodehouse's Psmith, Journalist - oh, and a certain other fellow's The Prisoner of Windsor. Tales for Our Time in all its variety is both highly relevant and a welcome detox from the madness of the hour: four years' worth of my audio adaptations of classic fiction starting with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's cracking tale of an early conflict between jihadists and westerners in The Tragedy of the Korosko. To access them all, please see our easy-to-navigate Netflix-style Tales for Our Time home page. We've introduced a similar tile format for my Sunday Poems and also for our Hundred Years Ago Show.
We launched The Mark Steyn Club four years ago, and I'm overwhelmed by all those members across the globe who've signed up to be a part of it - from Fargo to Fiji, Vancouver to Vanuatu, Cook County to the Cook Islands, West Virginia to the West Midlands. As I said at the time, membership isn't for everyone, but it is a way of ensuring that all our content remains available for everyone.
That said, we are offering our Club members a few extras, including our monthly audio adventures by Dickens, Conrad, Kafka, Gogol, H G Wells, P G Wodehouse, Baroness Orczy, Jack London, Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Louis Stevenson - plus a couple of pieces of non-classic fiction by yours truly. You can find them all here. We're very pleased by the response to our Tales - and we even do them live on our annual Mark Steyn Cruise, sailing this autumn, and sometimes with special guests.
I'm truly thrilled that one of the most popular of our Steyn Club extras these last four years has been our nightly radio serials. If you've enjoyed them and you're looking for a present for a fellow fan of classic fiction, I hope you'll consider our special Club Gift Membership. Aside from Tales for Our Time, The Mark Steyn Club does come with other benefits:
~Exclusive Steyn Store member pricing on over 40 books, mugs, T-shirts, and other products;
~The chance to engage in live Clubland Q&A sessions with yours truly, such as last Thursday's;
~Transcript and audio versions of The Mark Steyn Show, Mark's Mailbox, and our other video content;
~My video series of classic poetry, the latest entry to which airs next weekend;
~Booking for special members-only events, such as The Mark Steyn Christmas Show, assuming such events are ever again lawful;
~Priority booking for the next Mark Steyn Cruise;
~Advance booking for my live appearances around the world, assuming "live appearances" become a thing once more;
~Customized email alerts for new content in your areas of interest;
~and the opportunity to support our print, audio and video ventures as they wing their way around the planet.
To become a member of The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and don't forget that special Gift Membership. As soon as you join, you'll get access not only to Animal Farm but to all the other yarns gathered together at the Tales for Our Time home page.
One other benefit to membership is our Comment Club privileges. So, if you think my rendering of an enduring classic is less equal than others, feel free to have at it.
And do join us tomorrow evening for Part Two of Animal Farm, and every night circa 1am Greenwich Mean Time thereafter.
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