The first time I read 1984 by George Orwell, I was a sophomore in high school. We read it as part of our British Literature class. Something about the way he wrote this dystopian society really resonated with me, even though I knew nothing about the kinds of deprivations the people in Airstrip One (formerly known as Great Britain) had to live with every day. I think in the years since, which is nearly 20 years now, I’ve read it close to 100 times. Every time I do, I find something new in it, or I feel something different about it that I hadn’t felt before. It’s hard to put into words what it is I truly love about the book. People always look at me like I’m nuts when I say that, because they too had to read it in school, only they ended up hating it. I was always that kid loved reading the books that were assigned to us, because I loved reading and took every opportunity imaginable to expand my library. I’ve got close to 200 books as it is, and less than half are on an actual bookshelf because there’s no room for the rest.
Actually, I take that back — what has always struck me about the book and what always keeps me coming back to it are how Winston and Julia find a way to piece together some measure of happiness in a society that wants to stamp out any chance of happiness from ever occurring. One of my favorite scenes is when they’re holed up in this apartment above a shop, completely naked, drinking black market coffee and eating bread with jam. She had been a member of the Junior Anti-Sex League, but didn’t really subscribe to its principles, and watching these two broken, damaged people, yet strong people, fall in love amidst all the chaos and paranoia and constant surveillance is really incredibly moving. I always enjoy getting to those parts of the book, not because they’re particularly ribald or salacious…..far from it. It’s just powerful to see that kind of rebellion succeed, even for just a little while.