Friday, June 25, 2010

The Competition

Before I unveil the identity of the fellow above (if you don't know him by his picture, shame on you), I have to take a bit of a detour. You see, today is MY birthday, yes 41 years ago the wolf that raised me, brought me into this miserable world, and sent me off to find fortune and fame. Here I am all those years later pondering whether or not to make myself my own hero of the day. In many ways, I am far, far, from being anything approaching the stuff of which heroes are made, and to make myself my own hero is arrogant beyond belief. I have detailed my many flaws on several occasions in these pages, so there is no need to revisit them here and now.
However, I have been faithfully blogging on my heroes everyday since last August 12th. For a fat, lazy, slob like me that is quite a heroic task, there are a LOT of people who write for a living, and they write far more, and far better than I ever will, but then again that is how they pay their grocer's bill. I make my outrageous salary doing other things than writing. This is a hobby, or a flight of fancy for me, not a way to keep the lights on in my castle. A way for me to "express myself" in ways that my job does not allow. I did gain a major victory over Mother Nature (the Bitch) yesterday, and thought that it would be a good reason to anoint myself a hero. But, really and truly it is not, and I have a much bigger obstacle to becoming the hero of the day.

That reason is the fellow above is name is Eric Blair, though you probably know him better as George Orwell, and he was born this day 1903 in Motihari, India. It was a British possession at the time, and our boy George was therefore a British citizen. His father was a civil servant, and Orwell described his family as "lower-upper-middle class." At the age of one, his mother moved with him and his sisters to England, and he was not to see his father again until 1912. I am struggling with how much detail of his life to include in this already over long post, so I figure I will just hit the highlights. After all, you can read them for yourself. I will focus on the stuff that makes him take in place, in front of me, on our hero podium for today. He when to Spain to "fight against fascism" and joined a group called POUM, one of the many factions of fighters during the Spanish Civil War. His experiences there, including being shot in the throat, and nearly killed, form the basis for a lovely book called "Homage to Catalonia." I have read it at least 3 times, and even though it was a commercial flop when it was released, it is a fantastic book. Orwell requested in his will that no biography of him be written, and I can see why. His life, while not overly long, was full enough for volumes and volumes to be written about him. This request was not honored, and there are several biographies out there of him. I prefer to read him, and not about him. "1984" and "Animal Farm" are two books that will be on reading lists forever. The term Orwellian entered the lexicon, and until my name replaces it, I will forever be stuck behind good old George on the hero list for this day (as a friend of mine pointed out, not in a mean way, last night). Even his first work "Down and Out in Paris and London" is awesome, and it was probably the first book of his I read. Orwell said that the modern author that had the most influence on him was W. Somerset Maugham for "his power to tell a story straightforwardly and without frills." I wish I could do that, it seems I add a bit too many frills when I try to tell a story, and sometimes the story get lost amongst the frills. I suppose I should follow his six simple rules for writers which are

  • "Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print".
  • "Never use a long word where a short one will do".
  • "If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out".
  • "Never use the passive voice where you can use the active".
  • "Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent".
  • "Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous".
Orwell became quite good at telling stories as well, and even though I would love to put myself on the podium for my own ego's sake, I realize that to do so over Orwell it would be the height of folly. He was no frills to the end, when he died his tombstone simply read ""Here lies Eric Arthur Blair, born 25 June 1903, died 21 January 1950," there is no mention made of his famous pen name. The only consolation I can draw from today, and it is not good, is that unlike George, I am still alive to celebrate the birth date we share. Horrible I know, but small victories mean a lot to someone who shares a birthday with George Orwell. So, for all those wonderful books, and for sharing (hogging more like) my birthday, Eric Blair, a.k.a. George Orwell (June 25th, 1930-January 21st, 1950, at the age of 46 of a burst artery in his lungs), you are my (304th) hero of the day.

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