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Coming Up For Air

by George Orwell

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About Book

Insurance salesman George "Fatty" Bowling lives with his humorless wife and their two irritating children in a dull house in a tract development in the historyless London suburb of West Bletchley. The year is 1938; doomsayers are declaring that England will be at war again by 1941.

When George bets on an unlikely horse and wins, he finds himself with a little extra cash on his hands. What should he spend it on? "The alternatives, it seemed to me, were either a week-end with a woman or dribbling it quietly away on odds and ends such as cigars and double whiskeys." But a chance encounter with a poster in Charing Cross sets him off on a tremendous journey into his own memories--memories, especially, of a boyhood spent in Lower Binfield, the country village where he grew up. His recollections are pungent and detailed. Touch by touch, he paints for us a whole world that is already nearly lost: a world not yet ruled by the fear of war and not yet blighted by war's aftermath:

1913! My God! 1913! The stillness, the green water, the rushing of the weir! It'll never come again. I don't mean that 1913 will never come again. I mean the feeling inside you, the feeling of not being in a hurry and not being frightened, the feeling you've either had and don't need to be told about, or haven't had and won't ever have the chance to learn.
Alas, George finds that even Lower Binfield has been darkened by the bomber's shadow.

Readers of 1984 will recognize Orwell's desperate insistence on the importance of the individual, of memory, of history, and of language; and they will find in Fatty Bowling one of Orwell's most engaging creations--a warm, witty, thinking, remembering Everyman in a world that is fast learning not to think and not to remember, and thus swiftly losing its mind. --Daniel Hintzsche

Book Description
COMING UP FOR AIR is about coping. Orwell hooks a character from among the struggling middle class and, close-up, lets us watch him wiggle. George (Tubby) Bowling is a "fat, middle-aged bloke with false teeth and a red face." He sells insurance, a task at which he grimly excels. The father of two ingrates and husband to a slattern, he dutifully makes mortgage payments on their dreary home. As the years roll by, he comes to feel like a hostage to his family. He regards them as wardens, himself a prisoner.

Bowling is a splendid example of Thoreau's observation that "most men lead lives of quiet desperation."

Download Description
The idea really came to me the day I got my new false teeth. I remember the morning well. At about a quarter to eight I'd nipped out of bed and got into the bathroom just in time to shut the kids out. It was a beastly January morning, with a dirty yellowish-grey sky. Down below, out of the little square of bathroom window, I could see the ten yards by five of grass, with a privet hedge round it and a bare patch in the middle, that we call the back garden. There's the same back garden, some privets, and same grass, behind every house in Ellesmere Road. Only difference- where there are no kids there's no bare patch in the middle. I was trying to shave with a bluntish razor-blade while the water ran into the bath. My face looked back at me out of the mirror, and underneath, in a tumbler of water on the little shelf over the washbasin, the teeth that belonged in the face. It was the temporary set that Warner, my dentist, had given me to wear while the new ones were being made. I haven't such a bad face, really. It's one of those bricky-red faces that go with butter-coloured hair and pale-blue eyes. I've never gone grey or bald, thank God, and when I've got my teeth in I probably don't look my age, which is forty-five.

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