Gideon's Blog

In direct contravention of my wife's explicit instructions, herewith I inaugurate my first blog. Long may it prosper.

For some reason, I think I have something to say to you. You think you have something to say to me? Email me at: gideonsblogger -at- yahoo -dot- com

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Friday, April 19, 2002
Michelle Cottle in The New Republic is upset at kids pretending to be homeless for a weekend. I agree with her: it's obnoxious and condescending. But not because they could do more good by working in a soup kitchen rather than feeding at one. Rather, it's obnoxious because of the net. Down and Out in Paris and London is a treasure of a book, and a considerable portion of it is devoted to descriptions of Orwell's "tramping" expeditions. Why aren't those offensive? It's not just that Orwell was doing his stunts without a net, though that's part of it. I think to a great extent because Orwell is doing this for positive reasons of his own. He's not condescending to the tramps. He enjoys the freedom of becoming a tramp - really. There is such a freedom. Another wonderful book - Housekeeping by Marilyne Robinson - does a terrifying job of portraying the appeal of this freedom without sentimentality. Orwell found a way to partake of this freedom without losing his mind, and used his journeys to produce truly timeless journalism. But it's his honest selfishness - the fact that he is doing this because he likes it, not to make a point or because he feels guilty or because he wants to "understand" how the other half really lives - that makes his narrative not only tolerable but revelatory.