What We Are Reading Today: Becoming George Orwell: Life and Letters, Legend and Legacy

What We Are Reading Today: Becoming George Orwell: Life and Letters, Legend and Legacy
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Updated 16 September 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Becoming George Orwell: Life and Letters, Legend and Legacy

What We Are Reading Today: Becoming George Orwell: Life and Letters, Legend and Legacy

Author: John Rodden

Is George Orwell the most influential writer who ever lived? Yes, according to John Rodden’s provocative book about the transformation of a man into a myth. Rodden does not argue that Orwell was the most distinguished man of letters of the last century, nor even the leading novelist of his generation, let alone the greatest imaginative writer of English prose fiction. Yet his influence since his death at midcentury is incomparable. No other writer has aroused so much controversy or contributed so many incessantly quoted words and phrases to our cultural lexicon, from “Big Brother” and “doublethink” to “thoughtcrime” and “Newspeak.” Becoming George Orwell is a pathbreaking tour de force that charts the astonishing passage of a litterateur into a legend.
Rodden presents the author of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four in a new light, exploring how the man and writer Orwell, born Eric Arthur Blair, came to be overshadowed by the spectral figure associated with nightmare visions of our possible futures.
Rodden opens with a discussion of the life and letters, chronicling Orwell’s eccentricities and emotional struggles, followed by an assessment of his chief literary achievements. The second half of the book examines the legend and legacy of Orwell, whom Rodden calls “England’s Prose Laureate,” looking at everything from cyberwarfare to “fake news.” The closing chapters address both Orwell’s enduring relevance to burning contemporary issues and the multiple ironies of his popular reputation, showing how he and his work have become confused with the very dreads and diseases that he fought against throughout his life.


What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy
Updated 18 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

In March 1946, some of the greatest minds of the 20th century — among them John von Neumann, Norbert Wiener, Warren McCulloch, and Walter Pitts — gathered at the Beekman Hotel in New York City with the aim of constructing a science of mental behavior that would resolve at last the ancient philosophical problem of mind and matter. The legacy of their collaboration is known today as cognitive science.
Jean-Pierre Dupuy, one of the principal architects of cognitive science in France, reconstructs the early days of the field here in a provocative and engaging combination of philosophy, science, and historical detective work.
He shows us how the ambitious and innovative ideas developed in the wake of that New York meeting prefigured some of the most important developments of late-20th-century thought. Many scholars, however, shunned the ideas as crude and resented them for being overpromoted.
This rejection, Dupuy reveals, was a tragic mistake and a lost opportunity.


What We Are Reading Today: Russian ‘Hybrid Warfare’ by Ofer Fridman

What We Are Reading Today: Russian ‘Hybrid Warfare’ by Ofer Fridman
Updated 18 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Russian ‘Hybrid Warfare’ by Ofer Fridman

What We Are Reading Today: Russian ‘Hybrid Warfare’ by Ofer Fridman

During the last decade, “Hybrid Warfare” has become a novel yet controversial term in academic, political and professional military lexicons. Enthusiastic discussion of the notion has been undermined by conceptual vagueness and political manipulation, particularly since the onset of the Ukrainian crisis in early 2014.

Many political observers contend that it is the West that has been waging hybrid war since the end of the Cold War.

In this highly topical book, Ofer Fridman offers a clear delineation of the conceptual debates about hybrid warfare, according to a review on goodreads.com.


What We Are Reading Today: The Lessons of Tragedy

What We Are Reading Today: The Lessons of Tragedy
Updated 17 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Lessons of Tragedy

What We Are Reading Today: The Lessons of Tragedy

Author: Hal Brands and Charles Edel

The book offers an eloquent call to draw on the lessons of the past to address current threats to international peace.

Today, after more than seventy years of great‑power peace and a quarter‑century of unrivaled global leadership, Americans have lost their sense of tragedy. They have forgotten that the descent into violence and war has been all too common throughout human history.

In a forceful argument that brims with historical sensibility and policy insights, two distinguished historians argue that a tragic sensibility is necessary if America and its allies are to address the dangers that menace the international order today, according to a review on goodreads.com.


What We Are Reading Today: Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion

What We Are Reading Today: Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion
Updated 16 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion

What We Are Reading Today: Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion

Author: Elizabeth Carolyn Miller

The 1830s to the 1930s saw the rise of large-scale industrial mining in the British imperial world. Elizabeth Carolyn Miller examines how literature of this era reckoned with a new vision of civilization where humans are dependent on finite, nonrenewable stores of earthly resources, and traces how the threatening horizon of resource exhaustion worked its way into narrative form.
Britain was the first nation to transition to industry based on fossil fuels, which put its novelists and other writers in the remarkable position of mediating the emergence of extraction-based life.
Miller looks at works like Hard Times, The Mill on the Floss, and Sons and Lovers, showing how the provincial realist novel’s longstanding reliance on marriage and inheritance plots transforms against the backdrop of exhaustion to withhold the promise of reproductive futurity. She explores how adventure stories like Treasure Island and Heart of Darkness reorient fictional space toward the resource frontier.


What We Are Reading Today: Paracelsus; Selected Writings by B Jolande Jacobi

What We Are Reading Today: Paracelsus; Selected Writings by B Jolande Jacobi
Updated 14 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Paracelsus; Selected Writings by B Jolande Jacobi

What We Are Reading Today: Paracelsus; Selected Writings by B Jolande Jacobi

The enigmatic 16th-century Swiss physician and natural philosopher Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, called Paracelsus, is known for the almost superhuman energy with which he produced his innumerable writings, for his remarkable achievements in the development of science, and for his reputation as a visionary (not to mention sorcerer) and alchemist.

Little is known of his biography beyond his legendary achievements, and the details of his life have been filled in over the centuries by his admirers. This richly illustrated anthology presents in modernized language a selection of the moral thought of a man who was not only a self-willed genius charged with the dynamism of an impetuous and turbulent age but also in many ways a humble seeker after truth, who deeply influenced C. G. Jung and his followers.