We can learn to pay attention, concentrate, devote ourselves to authors. We can slow down so we can hear the voice of texts, feel the movement of sentences, experience the pleasure of words--and own passages that speak to us. (p. 41)
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We can learn to pay attention, concentrate, devote ourselves to authors. We can slow down so we can hear the voice of texts, feel the movement of sentences, experience the pleasure of words–and own passages that speak to us. (p. 41)

-Thomas Newkirk

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Later on in Culture and Society, Williams scores a few points by reprinting some absolutist sentences that, taken on their own, represent exaggerations or generalisations. It was a strength and weakness of Orwell’s polemical journalism that he would begin an essay with a bold and bald statement designed to arrest attention—a tactic that, as Williams rightly notices, he borrowed in part from GK Chesterton and George Bernard Shaw. No regular writer can re-read his own output of ephemera without encountering a few wince-making moments of this kind; Williams admits to ‘isolating’ them but has some fun all the same. The flat sentence ‘a humanitarian is always a hypocrite’ may contain a particle of truth—does in fact contain such a particle—but will not quite do on its own. Other passages of Orwell’s, on the failure of the Western socialist movement, read more convincingly now than they did when Williams was mocking them, but are somewhat sweeping for all that. And there are the famous outbursts of ill-temper against cranks and vegetarians and homosexuals, which do indeed disfigure the prose and (even though we still admire Pope and Swift for the heroic unfairness of their invective) probably deserve rebuke. However, Williams betrays his hidden bias even when addressing these relatively easy targets. He upbraids Orwell for the repeated use of the diminutive word ‘little’ as an insult (‘The typical Socialist ... a prim little man,’ ‘the typical little bowlerhatted sneak,’ etc.). Now, it is probable that we all overuse the term ‘little’ and its analogues. Williams does at one point—rather ‘loftily’ perhaps—reproach his New Left colleagues for being too ready to dismiss Orwell as ‘petit-bourgeois.’ But what about (I draw the example at random) Orwell’s disgust at the behaviour of the English crowd in the First World War, when ‘wretched little German bakers and hairdressers had their shops sacked by the mob’?

-Christopher Hitchens

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