The History of Literature #277 George Orwell

George Orwell (1903-1950) was one of the twentieth century’s great literary figures. An English novelist, who also excelled at essays and journalism, he fought all his life against injustice, snobbery, hypocrisy, deception (including self-deception), and lazy prose. In this episode, Mike Palindrome, president of the Literature Supporters Club, joins Jacke to discuss Orwell’s life and works, including 1984Animal Farm, his lesser-known novels, his journalistic works like Down and Out in Paris and London and Homage to Catalonia, and his most famous essays, including “Politics and the English Language,” “Shooting an Elephant,” and “A Hanging.”

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The History of Literature #228 – England vs France – A Literary Battle Royale

“Our dear enemies,” a French writer once said of the English. Englishman John Cleese called them “our natural enemies” and joked “if we have to fight anyone, I say let’s fight the French.” With the exception of a few big twentieth-century alliances, the French and the English have been at each others’ throats for a thousand years. Occasionally this has meant taking up arms and fighting for land or religion or rule. But what about culture? What if the battlefield were a literary one? What if supremacy was determined not by the sword but by the pen? In this episode, Jacke and Mike choose their sides and get ready to wage a literary battle between two proud, rivalrous, and highly literate nations.

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The History of Literature #128 – Top 10 Animals in Literature

Continuing our look at animals in literature, we’re joined by Mike Palindrome, President of the Literature Supporters Club, for a discussion of the Top 10 Animals in Literature. Did your favorite make the list? Did we leave it out altogether? Let us know!

Authors, works, and animals discussed include William Shakespeare, Michael Chabon, Jack London, Rilke, C.S. Lewis, Edgar Allen Poe, Herman Melville, Christopher Smart, Master and Margarita, Charlotte’s Web, Beatrix Potter, Winnie the Pooh, Harry Potter, the Cheshire Cat, The Jungle Book, Roald Dahl, T.S. Eliot, Leo Tolstoy, Toto the Dog, Watership Down, Frog and Toad, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, William Blake, Franz Kafka, Ovid, Beverly Cleary, Jaws, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Carbonel: King of the Cats, Paddington, The Wind in the Willows, Ferdinand the Bull, and George Orwell.

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The History of Literature #105 – Funny Women, Crimes Against Women, George Orwell, and More (with Kathy Cooperman)


Kathy Cooperman, author of the new novel Crimes Against a Book Club, joins the show to discuss everything from the secret lives of book clubs to her own journey from improv to lawyering to becoming an author. She also tells Jacke about an inspiring Bette Davis movie, some books that she’s loved, and what a move from the East Coast to the West Coast taught her about the way men and women deal with the aging process.

Works discussed include:

Down and Out in Paris in London by George Orwell

The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman

The Sex Lives of Cannibals by Maarten Troost

A Shock to the System by Jeremy Brett

Mr. Skeffington (with Bette Davis)

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Show Notes:  Continue reading

The History of Literature Episode 39 – Reconsidering Graham Greene


Jacke and Mike reconsider the life and works of the great twentieth-century British novelist Graham Greene.  Works discussed include The End of the Affair, The Power and the Glory,The Quiet American, Babbling April, and The Third Man.


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Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

Top Ten Writers Laughing: The Very Best!

Okay, we already looked at numbers 10 through 6. Let’s take a look at the top five from our very popular Writers Laughing series. Away we go!

Number 5: Kurt Vonnegut and John Irving


Number 4: Samuel Beckett


Number 3: Flannery O’Connor


Number 2: George Orwell (this was close – he was overtaken on the final day!)


And the number 1 Writers Laughing are…

Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir!

Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoirjp and sdbjp and sdb2

Congratulations, winners! Now everyone, let’s all try to make laughter part of our day today. Come on! We can do it!

Note: Commentary and image credits are on the original links.

Writers Laughing: George Orwell

Okay, the degree of difficulty is off the charts for this one. This is a man who agonized over politics and the English language. Who loved England and democracy but spent his life fighting against oppression and tyranny and the dangers of lazy thinking.

Laughing? George Orwell was shot in the throat while fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Come on, Jacke. You really think you can find a picture of him laughing?

Well, here we go:


Laughing! Right? Okay, maybe it’s no Ray Bradbury…his life was harder, and…

Wait…you don’t believe me? You think that’s just a smile? What are you accusing me of, reader? You think I’m trying to sneak one past you?

Reader, we have a good thing going! Don’t you trust me?

Fine, fine. I’ll give you my evidence. That picture above is taken from THIS picture: Continue reading

Avoid Clichés. And Avoid Avoiding Clichés.

Look, John Jeremiah Sullivan gets a lot of praise for his prose style, and he deserves it. His 2009 piece on Michael Jackson is excellent. He’s a great writer!

So I’m not just shooting aqueous creatures in a barrel when I call attention to this passage: Continue reading