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1984 enjoys sales boost from shocked, ill-read populace

In light of the revelations earlier this week that America’s National Security Administration totally cares what you thought of Man of Steel, no really, post some more statuses and links to back up your theory because it’s fascinating, it follows that anyone genuinely surprised that this has been going on for years would immediately go out and buy a copy of George Orwell’s 1984 because they clearly haven’t read it already. And that is indeed what has happened these past few days, with Amazon in the US reporting a sales rise of 5,771% for the novel as of this past Tuesday. Hopefully all those who bought the book as a reaction to the news will read it over the coming days and then be able to laugh at the irony of their act of groupthink.

Orwell’s epochal piece of nightmare prophesy has, of course, become the default reference point in any situation where some stoner dude is likely to break out the old ‘it’s only paranoia if they’re not really out to get you!!1!1!!1!’ chestnut, largely because so much of its terminology has infiltrated wider popular culture and reached people who feel able to reference it in said situations even though they didn’t actually own a copy before, say, Friday.

For it was President Obama’s Friday defence of the massive surveillance operation that appears to have spurred this particular sales boost for Orwell, rather than a general dearth of imagination amidst the general populace when it comes to their choice of dystopian fiction, invoking as the Commander in Chief did the terrifying idea that someone might actually be paying attention to everything you freely post up about yourself on Facebook and Twitter: ‘In the abstract, you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential programme run amok, but when you actually look at the details, then I think we’ve struck the right balance.’

On the plus side, if this pattern holds we can expect a similarly massive sales boost for, say, Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle when everyone finds out about the US Government’s secret ice-nine programme.

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Chris Ward

Chris Ward

Chris Ward writes and says things about books and music and films and what have you, even when no one is reading or listening.
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
He can be heard semi-regularly on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae ('20th best website in Scotland!' - The List), and in 2011 founded Seen Your Video, a film and music podcast and blog based in Glasgow. He has a Masters degree in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow that will never have any practical application. You are on a hiding to nothing if you follow him on Twitter expecting any kind of hot publishing scoop.

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