Maxwell's co-owner, Lynn Maxwell, was recently interviewed by the San Diego reader. Here's an excerpt:
What are you reading?
“Keep the Aspidistra Flying, by George Orwell. It’s a novel set in 1930s London, and it follows mostly the interior life and misadventures of Gordon Comstock, a former copywriter turned poet/bookstore clerk/bohemian who at all costs wants to avoid the life of the ‘money-obsessed masses.’ And, ironically, in his poverty he comes to think of little else besides money as his circumstances become more and more dire.”
What on earth is an aspidistra?
“It’s the ubiquitous, hardy, common houseplant of the time and setting. It seemed every household had one. Orwell uses it as a symbol for succumbing to everydayness and middle-class complacency, the type of life Gordon Comstock so desperately wants to avoid.”
Why did you pick it up?
“It is one of Orwell’s lesser-known stories, but it was the favorite of one of my husband’s professor friends.“
What did you like about it?
“What first attracted me was Orwell’s very keen eye and his spot-on physical descriptions of life behind the cash register of a used-book store. But I don’t share the main character’s sneering attitude toward his customers! There are also wonderful passages where Orwell skewers the naïveté of angry young men with ‘subversive’ ideas and ideals. Blistering social criticism is generally not my thing, but when it’s done this well, it can be delicious. I was also impressed with his depiction of what it means to have financial worry hanging over one’s head constantly. Orwell must have suffered from poverty to write so incisively and heartbreakingly about it.”