HONESDALE - Big Brother has a big birthday coming up – and a local activist wants people to mark the occasion.
Big Brother, of course, is one of the central figures in NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, George Orwell's classic novel of life in a totalitarian society, where the past is malleable and romantic love becomes a crime against the state. Its nightmarish depiction of constant surveillance and manipulated language brought about the creation of the very word "Orwellian" not long after the book's first publication in 1949, sixty-five years ago next year.
"So it's been a lifetime since the book came out – and thirty years, a whole generation, has passed since the date that Orwell chose," says Skip Mendler, a writer who lives in Honesdale and the organizer of the "1984+30 Project." "It's a great time to revisit that world, and see how much of Orwell's vision has come to pass and how much hasn't."
Mendler's idea is simple – using social media and word-of-mouth, encourage individuals and groups around the country and the world to rediscover NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, and most importantly to discuss the issues and ideas brought forth in the book. The target date: April 4, the day in the novel when protagonist Winston Smith opens his illegally-bought diary and begins scribbling.
"This time around," Mendler notes, "April 4, 2014 falls on a Friday – so events could take place anytime during that weekend." This is not new territory for Mendler, who in 2004 marked "1984+20" by staging a 11-hour marathon reading of the whole book at his local library. When 2009's "1984+25" rolled around, participation grew across the country. "I got some great pictures from a group in California, who put together a theatrical presentation of some of the key scenes," says Mendler.
But why this book, and why now? "During the Bush years, after 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, the relevance of NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR was pretty obvious," says Mendler. "Now, under Obama, we're still seeing controversies about surveillance – though now it's not just conducted by the government but also by business - and its effect on personal liberty and on community. That's just one example of how this book remains relevant."
For more information on the "1984+30 Project," visit its webpage at 1984plus30.wordpress.com.