I’m reading Orwell’s “1984″ right now. I’m not very far into it so I can’t really comment on the story, plotlines, characters, etc. other than to say, I fully plan on finishing this one. I have a bad habit of picking up book and not getting through the home stretch, though it’s usually with non-fiction that this happens. Not that I can’t pay attention that long, but that I find myself saying, “Okay Tom Friedman, I get it: technology is making the world spin faster. Loud and clear.” That sort of thing, and I move on. There are too many books that should have been feature length articles.
But back to George and his 245 page masterpiece. You can tell, only a few hundred words in, that this is going to be a good book. Why? Because it’s tight. There is no wasted language. There is no wasted description. There is no wasted character or scene or motif. Orwell must have poured over this to be sure that what we are reading, is what he is saying. Anything less and the book comes up short, and no author wants that for obvious reasons.
But why is it necessarily a bad thing if there is some extra color in the narrative? Why does it matter if something is described a little too detailed? Because it dilutes the overall meaning, and at the end of the day, Orwell is trying to tell you something. And he’s doing it through a mess of characters, futuristic themes, dreary societal norms and Newspeak, that need to become just clear enough for his message to come through about the impending fate of the world.
But here, lies the art form, and why this, and many other works like it, are so good. They get that message through just clear enough. If it had been too little, the book is confusing, too much and we all roll our eyes and says, “I get it George: if we’re all not careful the world is going to become an oppressive wasteland, void of free thought.” Instead, it perfectly toes that line and the exact right amount of parable is what makes this story a classic.
Okay, great. I’ve regurgitated what our high school English teachers taught us. Here is my question: How can you tell the right amount?