Coming Up for Air
BlurbInsurance salesman George "Fatty" Bowling lives with his humorless wife and their two irritating children in a dull house in a tract development in the historyless London suburb of West Bletchley. The year is 1938; doomsayers are declaring that England will be at war again by 1941.
When George bets on an unlikely horse and wins, he finds himself with a little extra cash on his hands. What should he spend it on? "The alternatives, it seemed to me, were either a week-end with a woman or dribbling it quietly away on odds and ends such as cigars and double whiskeys." But a chance encounter with a poster in Charing Cross sets him off on a tremendous journey into his own memories--memories, especially, of a boyhood spent in Lower Binfield, the country village where he grew up. His recollections are pungent and detailed. Touch by touch, he paints for us a whole world that is already nearly lost: a world not yet ruled by the fear of war and not yet blighted by war's aftermath:1913! My God! 1913! The stillness, the green water, the rushing of the weir! It'll never come again. I don't mean that 1913 will never come again. I mean the feeling inside you, the feeling of not being in a hurry and not being frightened, the feeling you've either had and don't need to be told about, or haven't had and won't ever have the chance to learn. Alas, George finds that even Lower Binfield has been darkened by the bomber's shadow.
Readers of 1984 will recognize Orwell's desperate insistence on the importance of the individual, of memory, of history, and of language; and they will find in Fatty Bowling one of Orwell's most engaging creations--a warm, witty, thinking, remembering Everyman in a world that is fast learning not to think and not to remember, and thus swiftly losing its mind. --Daniel Hintzsche
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