Orwell's Arsenal

Packer, a hardcore Orwell buff, reviews the Englishman's first book, Down and Out in Paris and London:

His literary beginnings were full of failures and wrong turns. He was far from a natural at the kind of work he really wanted to do, which was fiction-writing. But recording experience without flinching or sentimentalizing or self-aggrandizement or self-lacerationthis is what Orwell seems to have known how to do from the start, and it’s what makes “Down and Out” a classic early work. It shows all the strengths of the nonfiction writing to come, in books like “Wigan Pier” and “Homage to Catalonia,” and also in his essays. (Compare “Down and Out” to an essay he wrote fifteen years later, but about the same period of his life, “How the Poor Die,” or to “Such, Such Were the Joys,” one of his final essays, about his school days. The power of portraiture and description, the casual directness of the voice, the assertions and overstatements, the zeroing in on difficult truths: the whole arsenal of the Orwell style is already apparent from the very start.)