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Book News: Sales Of Orwell's '1984' Spike After NSA Revelations

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • As of this morning, Amazon sales of George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984 had jumped 6,021 percent in just 24 hours, to No. 213 on Amazon's bestseller list. As NPR's Alan Greenblatt recently pointed out, many people have found uncomfortable resonances between Orwell's "Big Brother" state and the news that broke last week of U.S. government surveillance programs. The news can often be a major driver of book sales: In 2008, sales of Ayn Rand's conservative classic Atlas Shrugged spiked during the banking industry bailouts.
  • And after the news of the NSA surveillance broke last week, Twitter rose to the occasion with a collection of NSA-themed children's book titles: The Princess and the Pea-Sized Listening Device She Found Under Her Mattress and Everyone Snoops were among the best.
  • The Bronte Society has bought a piece of Charlotte Bronte's French homework — a composition on filial love — for £50,000 (nearly $78,000). If anyone's interested, I've got a lead on Thomas Pynchon's algebra notes ...
  • The independent Canadian publishing house McArthur & Company is closing down because of financial difficulties, Publisher's Weekly reported Monday. The owner, Kim McArthur, plans to begin a new project with Miron Blumental, called McArthur Blumental Creative, where she hopes to become a literary agent. The house currently publishes the famed Canadian author Margaret Atwood, among others.
  • In The Irish Times, Frank McNally wonders why Flann O'Brien hasn't had a bridge named after him yet: "If his ghost is still with us, Flann O'Brien/Myles na gCopaleen must surely suspect that there are dark forces at work somewhere to prevent his possible immortalisation by a piece of publicly-funded civil engineering."
  • For The Threepenny Review, James Fenton writes about the poet Philip Larkin: "You might love Larkin's poetry, you might love Larkin the man, as a difficult, impossible, incurably unhappy character. You can't love Larkin as you might love, say, George Herbert — in full confidence that you will love everything about him."
  • Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.