Newsletter: Cigarettes and Alcohol

Friday 11 February 2011

Two famous Orwell essays celebrated their 65th anniversaries this week. ‘Books vs. Cigarettes’ was first published in Tribune on 8 February 1946. In the essay, Orwell examines the widespread  ‘idea that the buying, or even the reading, of books is an expensive hobby and beyond the reach of the average person’ by calculating his spending on books, compared to spending on other pastimes. You can read the essay on our website, or you can find it in one of Penguin’s ‘Great Ideas’ books with some other Orwell articles. On the 9th February, it was 65 years since the Evening Standard published ‘The Moon Under Water’, Orwell’s consideration of the ideal pub. It’s not Orwell’s only essay on the subject: he also reviewed a Mass Observation report on ‘The Pub and the People’. Both of the essays are in our ‘By Orwell’ section.

The Orwell Prize 2011

This year’s Prize has received a record-breaking 213 entries for the Book Prize, 87 journalists for the Journalism Prize and 205 bloggers for the Blog Prize. To see a full list of entrants, visit our website. The longlists will be announced on 30th March 2011.

From the archive

In a week of anniversaries, the 7th February was the 199th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth. You can find Orwell’s essay on him, and video of our two Orwell vs Dickens debates – Oxford 2009 with Francine Stock chairing Jenny Hartley, Philip Hensher, Jean Seaton and Hardeep Singh Kohli, and Buxton 2010 with David Aaronovitch, Lucinda Hawksley, Michael Slater and D. J. Taylor chaired by Dame Janet Smith – on our website.

From elsewhere

The Independent on Sunday kindly mentioned our Wigan Pier diary blog last weekend. We’ve also found a great piece from The Guardian in 2003, by David McKie, on The Road to Wigan Pier, fact and fiction. Orwell Prize winners Timothy Garton Ash and Neal Ascherson had quite a debate on the same subject, of fiction vs non-fiction in reportage, last year about the journalist Ryszard Kapuściński. Gordon Bowker’s biography of Orwell is to be reissued, in a revised edition, by Abacus Books shortly. You can find much more from Gordon on our website. As part of the new BBC2 series, Faulks on Fiction, Sebastian Faulks looked at 1984’s Winston Smith and spoke to Robert Harris about the unlikely hero. UK viewers can watch that part of the programme on iPlayer, while part of the Harris interview is on YouTube.


We’ll be announcing some literary festival events of our own shortly, but until then, a number of previous winners will be appearing up and down the UK: Aye Write! Glasgow

Jewish Book Week, London

Also, this year’s Political Quarterly lecture (PQ are one of our partners) will be given by David Miliband on 8 March. Visit the LSE website for more information.

The Wigan Pier Diaries

This week, entries were published on 5th, 10th and 11th February. Next week, entries will be published on 12th, 13th, 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th February. In addition to the blog, we have a Google Map tracking Orwell’s journey, a flickr set of archive images, and our page on The Road to Wigan Pier, with the first chapter and other links.

The Wartime Diaries

This week, entries were published on 7th February. Next week, entries will be published on 12th February. If you’ve got any suggestions about our website(s), we’d love to hear from you – email us on or follow us on Twitter. And you can subscribe to this newsletter via email.