Around the side of Manchester's Arndale Centre, on the edge of the Northrn Quarter, there's a little second-hand bookstore that I have a tendency to drop into once in a while. I've found a few gems in there over the last few months, including a biography of Bram Stoker and a few William Burroughs books. One of the smallest books caught my eye though- Sparknotes' guide to George Orwell's 1984.
I read 1984 maybe a decade ago, and it unnerved me to say the least. I keep this blog largely because I forget everything, so the idea of a future in which written records are banned and government documents are rewritten to suit their needs, well, it's not one I'd want to live in. Whether we do live in a world like that is another issue altogether, and not for this blog post. I could tell, though, that there were subtexts I wasn't grasping properly- parts of it were beyond me.
It's nice, then, that years later I find something that concisely explains what happens in the book, including hidden meanings, and reminds me of its brilliance.
There are a number of publishers creating guide books to novels and plays: Sparknotes, York Notes, Letts Notes and Cliff's Notes. I think Letts is still the best. York and Sparknotes are on par with each other (very helpful), but I found Cliff's dived into the text too soon without enough background info.
Being from a second hand shop, the Sparknotes book was a bargain.