Ralph Steadman’s Surrealist Illustrations of George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1995)

As a novelist, George Orwell did not traffic in subtleties, but then neither did the authors of Medieval morality plays. The allegorical Animal Farm performs a similar, if secular, function, giving us unambiguous villainy and clear didactic intent. Orwell noted in his essay “Why I Write” that he meant the book to “fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole.“ Originally published with the subtitle A Fairy Story, the novel caricatures Stalinism and the Russian Revolution, and Orwell left no mystery as to his intent when he commented in the preface to a 1947 Ukrainian edition that he meant the book to “end on a loud note of discord” meant to signify what he saw as the instability of the Tehran Conference.

Leaden statements like these aside, Orwell swore he “did not wish to comment on the work,” writing, “if it does not speak for itself, it is a failure.” The book does indeed speak, in two especially particular ways: its vividly grotesque characterizations of the humans and animals on the farm and its indelible collection of propagandistic slogans.




These are the features best captured by gonzo illustrator Ralph Steadman, famous for his collaborations with Hunter S. Thompson and Pink Floyd. Published in 1995—with the Fairy Story subtitle restored—the Steadman-illustrated 50th anniversary edition realizes another previous variation on the book’s title: Animal Farm: A Contemporary Satire.

These images draw out the exaggerated absurdities of the novel as only an artist with Steadman’s twisted, surrealist sense of visual humor could. They are profoundly effective, though there’s no telling what Orwell would have thought of them. Steadman’s caricatures universalize the book’s drama, providing the kind of stock characters we find in folklore, “fairy stories,” and religious allegory. But Orwell wrote that he wished us not to mistake his express political intent: “It was of the utmost importance to me that people in Western Europe should see the Soviet regime for what it really was…. I have been convinced that the destruction of the Soviet myth was essential if we wanted a revival of the Socialist movement.”

Steadman, to his great credit, felt no need to literalize Orwell's stated intentions in his illustrations, but rather took the book's bizarre world on its own terms. You can read more quotes from Orwell’s earnest, intended preface for the book, restored in the Steadman edition, at Brain Pickings, where you’ll also find a good number of the illustrations as well. Copies of the out-of-print book can be purchased on Amazon and Abe's books.

Steadman not only applied his skill as a caricaturist to Orwell’s fictional farm denizens, we should note, but also to the author himself. He made several sketches of Orwell, such as that below of the writer with a cage of rats around his neck. You can see several more of Steadman’s drawings of Orwell at The Guardian.

via Brain Pickings

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

36 Abstract Covers of Vintage Psychology, Philosophy & Science Books Come to Life in a Mesmerizing Animation

Animated ebook covers are the wave of the future.

Graphic and motion designer Henning M. Lederer surfs that wave on the most unexpected of boards—a collection of abstract mid-century covers drawn from the Instagram feed of artist Julian Montague, who shares his enthusiasm for vintage minimalism.

Lederer first came to our attention in 2015, when we covered the first installment of what seems destined to become an ongoing project.




His latest effort, above, continues his explorations in the subjects which most frequently traded in these sorts of geometric covers—science, psychotherapy, philosophy and sociology.

No word on what inspired him to toss in the first cover, which features a cheerful, Playmobil-esque mushroom gatherer. It's endearing, but—to quote Sesame Street—is not like the others. Those of us who can’t decipher Cyrillic script get the fun of imagining what sort of text this is—a mycology manual? A children’s tale? A psychological examination—and ultimately rejection—of midcentury publishers’ fascination for spirals, diagonal bars, and other non-narrative graphics?

Whether or not you’d be inclined to pick up any of these titles, you may find yourself wanting to dance to them, compliments of musician Jörg Stierle’s trippy electronics.

Or take your cue from yet another cover  contained therein: I. P. Pavlov’s Essays in Psychology and Psychiatry with a Special Section on Sleep and Hypnosis.

Here’s the one that started it all:

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Ray Bradbury Reveals the True Meaning of Fahrenheit 451: It’s Not About Censorship, But People “Being Turned Into Morons by TV”

Even those of us who've never read Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 know it as a searing indictment of government censorship. Or at least we think we know it, and besides, what else could the story of a dystopian future where America has outlawed books whose main character burns the few remaining, secreted-away volumes to earn his living be about? It turns out that Bradbury himself had other ideas about the meaning of his best-known novel, and in the last years of his life he tried publicly to correct the prevailing interpretation — and to his mind, the incorrect one.

"Fahrenheit 451 is not, he says firmly, a story about government censorship," wrote the Los Angeles Weekly's Amy E. Boyle Johnson in 2007. "Nor was it a response to Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose investigations had already instilled fear and stifled the creativity of thousands." Rather, he meant his 1953 novel as "a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature." It's about, as he puts it above, people "being turned into morons by TV." Johnson quotes Bradbury describing television as a medium that "gives you the dates of Napoleon, but not who he was,” spreading "factoids" instead of knowledge. “They stuff you with so much useless information, you feel full.”




He didn't much like radio either: just two years before Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury wrote to his sci-fi colleague Richard Matheson bemoaning its contribution to "our growing lack of attention," and its creation of a "hopscotching existence" that "makes it almost impossible for people, myself included, to sit down and get into a novel again." For the abandonment of reading he saw in society, and from which he extrapolated in his book, he blamed not the state but the people, an entertaiment-as-opiate-addicted "democratic society whose diverse population turns against books: Whites reject Uncle Tom’s Cabin and blacks disapprove of Little Black Sambo," leading to widespread censorship and eventually the burning of all reading material.

But books still do face challenges (and the FBI even had its eye on Bradbury and his genre), challenges only an intelligent, non-numbed public can beat back. "I get letters from teachers all the time saying my books have been banned temporarily," says Bradbury in the clip above. "I say, don't worry about it, put 'em back on the shelves. You keep putting them back and they keep taking them off, and you finally win." The authors, even Bradbury, can't help, but he would always tell these literarily-minded people who wrote to him in distress the same thing: "You do the job. You're the librarian. You're the teacher. Stand firm and you'll win. And they always do."

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Rebecca Solnit Picks 13 Songs That Will Remind Us of Our Power to Change the World, Even in Seemingly Dark Times

Image by Shawn, via Flickr Commons

Apocalypses have always been popular as mass belief and entertainment. Maybe it’s a collective desire for retribution or redemption, or a kind of vertigo humans experience when staring into the abyss of the unknown. Better to end it all than live in neurotic uncertainty. Maybe we find it impossible to think of a future world existing hundreds, thousands, millions of years after our deaths. As Rebecca Solnit observes in Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, “people have always been good at imagining the end of the world, which is much easier to picture than the strange sidelong paths of change in a world without end.” What if the world never ends, but goes on forever, changing and evolving in unimaginable ways?

This is the bailiwick of science fiction, but also the domain of history, a hindsight view of centuries past when wars, tyrannical conquests, famines, and diseases nearly wiped out entire populations—when it seemed to them a near certainty that nothing would or could survive the present horror. And yet it did.




This may be no consolation to the victims of violence and plague, but the world has gone on for the living, people have adapted and survived, even under the current, very real threats of nuclear war and catastrophic climate change. And throughout history, both small and large groups of people have changed the world for the better, though it hardly seemed possible at the time. Solnit's book chronicles these histories, and last year, she released a playlist as a companion for the book.

Hope in the Dark makes good on its title through a collection of essays about “everything,” writes Alice Gregory at The New York Times, “from the Zapatistas to weather forecasting to the fall of the Berlin Wall.” The book is “part history of progressive success stories, part extended argument for hope as a catalyst for action.” Solnit wrote the book in 2004, during the reelection of George W. Bush—a time when progressives despaired of ever seeing the end of chickenhawk sabre-rattling, wars for profit, privatization of the public sphere, environmental degradation, theocratic political projects, curtailing of civil rights, or the disaster capitalism the administration wholeheartedly embraced (as Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine detailed). Plus ça change....

In March of last year, Haymarket Books reissued Hope in the Dark, and on November 10th, Solnit posted a link to a free download of the book on Facebook. It was downloaded over 30,000 times in one week. Along with other progressive intellectuals like Klein and Richard Rorty, Solnit—who became internationally known for the term “mansplaining” in her essay, then book, Men Explain Things to Me—has now been cast as a “Cassandra figure of the left,” Gregory writes. But she rejects the disastrous futility inherent in that analogy:

If you think of a kind of ecology of ideas, there are more than enough people telling us how horrific and terrible and bad everything is, and I don’t really need to join that project. There’s a whole other project of trying to counterbalance that — sometimes we do win and this is how it worked in the past. Change is often unpredictable and indirect. We don’t know the future. We’ve changed the world many times, and remembering that, that history, is really a source of power to continue and it doesn’t get talked about nearly enough.

If we don’t hear enough talk about hope, maybe we need to hear more hopeful music, Solnit suggests in her Hope in the Dark playlist. Thirteen songs long, it moves between Beyoncé and The Clash, Iggy Pop and Stevie Nicks, Black Flag and Big Freedia.

While the selections speak for themselves, she offers brief commentary on each of her choices in a post at Powell’s. Beyoncé’s “Formation,” Solnit writes, “reformulates, digging deep into the past of sorrow and suffering and injustice and pulling us all with her into a future that could be different.” Patti Smith’s anthem “People Have the Power” feels like hope, Solnit says: “it’s right about the power we have, which obliges us to act, and which many duck by pretending we’re helpless.” Maybe that’s what apocalypses are all about—making us feel small and powerless in the face of impending doom. But there are other kinds of religion, like that of Lee Williams’ “Steal My Joy.” It’s a “gorgeous gospel song,” writes Solnit. “Joystealers are everywhere. Never surrender to them.” That sounds like an ideal exhortation to imagine and fight for a better future.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

What Happens When the Books in William S. Burroughs’ Personal Library Get Artistically Arranged — with His Own “Cut-Up” Method

If your Facebook news feed looks anything like mine, you wake up each morning to a stream of not just food snapshots and selfies but pictures of books, whether stacked up, dumped into a pile, or arranged neatly on shelves. Why do we post digital photos of our printed matter? Almost certainly for the same reason we do anything on social media: to send a message about ourselves. We want to tell our friends who we are, or who we think we are, but not in so many words, or rather not in so few; a few of the books we've read (or intend to read), carefully selected and arranged, does the job. But what if, instead of assembling a self-portrait through books, someone else entered your personal library and did it for you?

Artist Nina Katchadourian (she of, among many other endeavors, the airplane-bathroom 17th-century Flemish portraiture) recently took on that task in the Lawrence, Kansas home of famously hard-living and furiously creative beat writer William S. Burroughs. She did it as part of her long-running Sorted Books project, in which, in her words, "I sort through a collection of books, pull particular titles, and eventually group the books into clusters so that the titles can be read in sequence.




The final results are shown either as photographs of the book clusters or as the actual stacks themselves, often shown on the shelves of the library they came from. Taken as a whole, the clusters are a cross-section of that library's holdings that reflect that particular library's focus, idiosyncrasies, and inconsistencies."

Kansas Cut-Up, the Burroughs chapter of Sorted Books, features such arrangements as How Did Sex Begin? Uninvited GuestsHuman ErrorMemoirs of a Bastard Angel A Night of Serious DrinkingA Little Original Sin, and American Diplomacy / Physical Interrogation TechniquesIn the Secret StateThom Robinson of the European Beat Studies Network describes Burroughs' book collection as "a selection of largely European works whose contents include paranoia, theories of language, pseudoscience, mordant humour and drugs: in retrospect, it’s easy to imagine the owner of such an idiosyncratic library producing the melange of Naked Lunch. Perhaps for this reason, it seems hard to resist reordering the books which Burroughs owned in 1944 in order to emphasise the most recognisable elements of the later Burroughs persona."

Sometimes Katchadourian seems to do just that and sometimes she doesn't, but her method of book-sorting, which she explains in the episode of John and Sarah Green's series The Art Assignment at the top of the post, bears more than a little resemblance to Burroughs' own "cut-up" method of literary composition. "Take a page," as Burroughs himself explained it. "Now cut down the middle and cross the middle. You have four sections: 1 2 3 4 ... one two three four. Now rearrange the sections placing section four with section one and section two with section three. And you have a new page. Sometimes it says much the same thing. Sometimes something quite different." And just as a rearranged book can speak in a new and strange voice, so can a rearranged library.

via Austin Kleon's newsletter (which you should subscribe to here)

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Free: You Can Now Read Classic Books by MIT Press on Archive.org

FYI. At the end of May, Archive.org announced this on its blog:

For more than eighty years, MIT Press has been publishing acclaimed titles in science, technology, art and architecture.  Now, thanks to a new partnership between the Internet Archive and MIT Press, readers will be able to borrow these classics online for the first time. With generous support from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Peter Baldwin and Lisbet Rausing, this partnership represents an important advance in providing free, long-term public access to knowledge.

“These books represent some of the finest scholarship ever produced, but right now they are very hard to find,” said Brewster Kahle, founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive. “Together with MIT Press, we will enable the patrons of every library that owns one of these books to borrow it online–one copy at a time.”

This joint initiative is a crucial early step in Internet Archive’s ambitious plans to digitize, preserve and provide public access to four million books, by partnering widely with university presses and other publishers, authors, and libraries....

We will be scanning an initial group of 1,500 MIT Press titles at Internet Archive’s Boston Public Library facility, including Cyril Stanley Smith’s 1980 book, From Art to Science: Seventy-Two Objects Illustrating the Nature of Discovery, and Frederick Law Olmsted and Theodora Kimball’s Forty Years of Landscape Architecture: Central Park, which was published in 1973. The oldest title in the group is Arthur C. Hardy’s 1936 Handbook of Colorimetry.

Throughout the summer, we've been checking in, waiting for the first MIT Press books to hit Archive.org's virtual shelves. They're now starting to arrive. Click here to find the beginnings of what promises to be a much larger collection.




As Brewster Kahle (founder of Internet Archive) explained it to Library Journalhis organization is “basically trying to wave a wand over everyone’s physical collections and say, Blink! You now have an electronic version that you can use” in whatever way desired, assuming its permitted by copyright. In the case of MIT Press, it looks like you can log into Archive.org and digitally borrow their electronic texts for 14 days.

Archive.org hopes to digitize 1,500 MIT Press classics by the end of 2017. Digital collections from other publishing houses seem sure to follow.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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Discover the Jacobean Traveling Library: The 17th Century Precursor to the Kindle

Image courtesy of the University at Leeds

In the striking image above, you can see an early experiment in making books portable--a 17th century precursor, if you will, to the modern day Kindle.

According to the library at the University of Leeds, this "Jacobean Travelling Library" dates back to 1617. That's when William Hakewill, an English lawyer and MP, commissioned the miniature library--a big book, which itself holds 50 smaller books, all "bound in limp vellum covers with coloured fabric ties." What books were in this portable library, meant to accompany noblemen on their journeys? Naturally the classics. Theology, philosophy, classical history, classical poetry. The works of Ovid, Seneca, Cicero, Virgil, Tacitus, and Saint Augustine. Many of the same texts that showed up in The Harvard Classics (now available online) three centuries later, and now our collection of Free eBooks.

Apparently three other Jacobean Travelling Libraries were made. They now reside at the British Library, the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, and the Toledo Museum of Art in Toledo, Ohio.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

via Daily Mail

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