This was another book I bought at Coliseum Books when I was seventeen. I had already read his two best known books, “Animal Farm” and “1984” in school - both of which I enjoyed immensely - so I was curious to read the other works he had available. “Keep the Aspidistra Flying” was the first one I chose (along with “Down and Out in Paris and London” on the same day). This novel was my next foray into expanding my reading horizons at the time and I can clearly recall lying in bed at night reading this book for hours, unable to put it down.
The story is about a man named Gordon Comstock who forgoes his job and life of privilege in an open “war” with what he terms as “the money-god”. He leaves his job as a well paid copywriter at an advertising agency in order to take on a low paying job so he could write his poetry. Needless to say things do not go so well for him. He both enjoys his new life of destitution while at the same time having disdain for it and over time becomes bitter and neurotic, becoming obsessed with how he sees what the role of money plays in social relationships. The Aspidistra plant serves as a symbol for those who (as Gordon sees) desire to “make good” and settle down, to be the very thing he was at war with. But there is a twist, of course and I would recommend that those who have never read this novel to read it and see the story through. It is definitely well worth the discussion.
I read this book at a time when I, too, was at “war” with the growing sensibilities of the Reagan Era, so it had a special resonance for me. It also continued to push me further down the road to explore writers and novels that has something to say, something that was more than just entertainment, and coming at a time when I began to become more socially aware. I also suspect that in some small way it would be influential on my politics in the years that followed.
I eventually came to read all of Orwell’s novels, but this one I would list as my favorite out of all his fiction. He had written many non-fiction works as well, all of which are worth exploring.