George Orwell inhabited a certain counterfeit Chinese curse like a silk kimono: He lived and wrote in interesting times. Having experienced world wars, ideological smackdowns, intellectual lunacy, and what George Packer (editor of an Orwell collection from which this column's title is filched) called "dilemmas over the role of the writer in a period of partisan upheaval," criticism's white knight took stock of his combative role. "In a peaceful age, I might have written ornate or merely descriptive books," Orwell confessed. "As it is, I have become a... More >>>