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  • seandodson 2:20 pm on March 31, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: andrew sparrow, anton vowel, cathy newman, , laurie penny, , , , political writing,   

    Orwell Prize longlist announced 

    The Orwell Prize for political writing announced its longlist for the 2011 prize in London last night. Of particular interest to me was the category for political blogging. I haven’t had time to digest all the blogs just yet but the most obvious thing to note how many entries from big, traditional media organisations, like the Telegraph and the BBC, now occupy the list. The longlist includes Politics Live from Andrew Sparrow of the Guardian; Fact Check from Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News (both excellent); Paul Mason’s Idle Scrawl (which has been longlisted before); Daniel Hannan of the Torygraph and Laurie Penny of the New Statesmen. That is nearly a quarter of the final 22.

    Now all these blogs are far better than my efforts, lazy and half-baked as they usually are, but should they be there at all?. The Orwell Prize was established to award the writers that came closest to Orwell’s ability to “transform political writing into art”. So, for example, Andrew Sparrow’s daily missive’s are necessary reading, and helping to evolve a new form of journalism indeed, but such blogs are the polaroids of political writing, rather than the more detailed portraiture that I’ve always assumed the prize was their to promote. Paul Mason, bless him, admits as much today when he writes “good luck to all the real bloggers who don’t have a mainstream media pension, salary and self-censorship training to fall back on.” He’s right.

    Luckily, the self-censored media don’t dominate the list and there’s a wealth of intelligent, independent blogging to pick over and help promote plurality in the public-blog-o-sphere. Anton Vowel’s Enemies of Reason writes about the media, mostly newspapers, picking on their inherent contradictions and biases and deploying some heavy sarcasm to great effect. Osama Diab’s The Chronikler seems pretty good, inherently strong on how it links technological issues to the upheavals in Arab world. While Prisoner Ben is an interesting addition because it’s the only blog being written (via the postal service) from inside a British prison. It’s got it’s fascination, although he lacks the eloquence of Peter Wayne.

    Is anyone on the list raising political writing to an artform? I’m not sure, but I haven’t read everyone on the list. Even if not, who am I to complain as my idle thoughts wouldn’t even make the very longlist. It’s still a useful list and a meaningful prize, but political blogging is not yet the art form Orwell would have had in mind.

    • msbaroque 2:39 pm on April 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for this – and for linking to Paul Mason’s wonderful cogitation on the same question of what political writing might be if it were an “art.” My blog – primarily a literary one, but politically active, as you might say – didn’t make the longlist; I wondered if it might be a long shot to enter, but political activist and journalist friends advised me to, and I was encouraged by Orwell’s sentence about the art. I’ve found myself thinking more and more deeply since the event about that statement by Orwell, which the Orwell Prize is based on. Making political writing into an art. The art would be literature, of course; and Orwell himself was an active member of the literary world, writing (obviously) novels as well as his essays, and poems, and having his essays published in literary magazines. You could be more of an all-rounder back then, and the same sensibility be assumed to inform all the activities.

      I haven’t arrived at a conclusion yet, nor – in a week when it was hard to find the time to go to the longlisting event (which I did), or even write a blog post myself, have I had time yet to read the longlisted blogs. But the thing I’m thinking so far is that if political writing IS an art, then that art is literature. He’d have loved blogs, as Defoe loved pamphlets. But further than that, there’s a wider question of what we want political writing – and indeed literature – to BE. Your post and Paul’s have given me more to think about.

  • seandodson 5:31 pm on February 26, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , political writing,   

    Orwell Prize targets political bloggers 

    1984Glad to see that the Orwell Prize for political writing has been extended to included blogging. Heard Jean Seaton on the Today Programme this morning saying that if Orwell were alive today, he would have been a blogger. She added: “He was always absolutely avid about whatever was the contemporary form of media.”

    “He would have been interested in the democratic possibilities of it – anyone can do it as long as they’ve got access to a machine,” said DJ Taylor, Orwell’s biographer. “[But], the misuses to which blogging has been put … would have appalled him. There would, in all probability, have been an essay on Blogging and the English Language.”

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  • seandodson 10:49 pm on September 15, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , political writing, , ,   

    Orwell in Tribune is the Observer’s paperback of the week 

    Hats of to my mate Paul Anderson. His book, Orwell in Tribune, is paperback of the week in this Sunday’s Observer. It’s a great collection of Orwell’s writing dating from 1943-7 and originally published in the left-wing newspaper Tribune.

    From the review:

    “Many of his observations are as relevant today as they were in the Forties: the snobbishness of advertising; the prevalence of faux-scientific superstition (‘That a swan can break your leg with a blow of its wing’); the lame jokes in Punch (‘Jokes that are funny usually contain that un-English thing, an idea’); and that perennial of the political commentator, the ‘quite fantastic ugliness’ of most politicians.”

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