Triangle book sellers say they are selling out of “1984,” George Orwell’s classic about a totalitarian regime where even thinking rebellious thoughts is illegal.
John Valentine at the Regulator Bookshop in Durham said Tuesday that the store sold its last available copy “five minutes ago.” The shop has several dozen on order, he said.
Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh sold its four copies right after the November presidential election and is awaiting an order of 25 more.
And at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, book seller Banshion Simmons said the store sold out of its copies, got a few more in, sold those and have ordered more. “Because it’s so hard to get, customers are branching out into other dystopian literature, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ ‘It Can’t Happen Here’ and ‘Brave New World,’ ” Simmons said.
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By comparison, those independent bookstores typically sell just three to four copies of “1984” each year. But Mary Amicucci, chief merchant for Barnes & Noble, which owns 771 campus bookstores, says the book has always been a best-seller for the chain. Barnes & Noble does not break out sales figures by region.
The book also is at the top of Amazon’s U.S. best-seller list.
A spokesman for its publisher, Penguin USA, told The New York Times last week that 75,000 new copies of the book have been ordered, and it’s considering another reprint.
Craig Burke, the publicity director at Penguin USA, told The New York Times’ Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura that the book has seen a 9,500 percent increase in sales since President Donald Trump’s inauguration. He added that sales began to rise after Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway used the phrase “alternative facts” on NBC’s “Meet the Press” two days after the inauguration. Conway was defending Trump Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s false claim that the inauguration attracted the “largest audience ever.”
Social media lit up after Conway’s comments as people connected her phrase to Orwell’s novel, in which the Party’s Ministry of Truth uses an invented language called Newspeak to eliminate all words related to rebellion and where the Ministry of Truth is responsible for propaganda and rewriting history.
The novel, which was written in 1949, made popular such terms as “doublethink,” “thoughtcrime” and “Big Brother.”
Valentine at the Regulator said that in Durham “people are carrying it around like badges. ... We’re such a bubble of democracy here, it’s a really sad time.”
What else is selling at the Regulator?
“Any book on activism,” Valentine said.
In addition to ‘1984,’ try ...
Here’s a description from publishers or Amazon of the other dystopian novels that are now selling well.
▪ “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley is a satiric vision of a “utopian” future where humans are genetically bred and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively serve a ruling order. Everyman’s Library, 280 pages.
▪ “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis is political satire about the rise of a president who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, sex, crime and a liberal press. Signet Classics, 416 pages.
▪ “V for Vendetta” by Alan Moore is a British graphic novel that depicts a dystopian and post-apocalyptic near-future history version of the United Kingdom in the 1990s, preceded by a nuclear war in the 1980s that had devastated most of the rest of the world. Vertigo, 296 pages.