Book 1 : A Clockwise Orange

  • The first book I have read this year is A Clockwise Orange by Anthony Burgess.  Many people, my book club friend Inez included, associate A Clockwork Orange  with Stanley Kubrick.  Kubrick directed the film which was quite celebrated.  Burgess, however, wrote the book.
  • I had seen the movie before reading the book and thought the society as portrayed a bit far fetched for 1973.  It was a teen culture in revolt, a dystopia.  But everything was too extravagant. The book gave me a picture of a culture which seemed more plausible.
  • I knew that Burgess had invented a language called nadsat for the teens in the book. He created 200 words, many Russian-influenced.  It was not as difficult to read as I had expected, many words capable of being recognized through context.
  • The violence I found to be not as offputting as in the movie. I attribute this to the nadsat language which kept us one level away from the real words like rape.
  • Alex is not literature’s most endearing protagonist but Burgess does give us a good understanding of what he is thinking and feeling, however foreign to our own way of living.
  • This is my kind of science fiction.  Yes, it is classified as science fiction.  No spaceships or astronauts. The science is psychology and behavior modification.  Can we train people to be good by conditioning or is goodness only good if we choose it freely?
  • Kubrick omitted the final chapter of the book in his movie.   It may have made for a better movie but the final chapter adds a degree of hope to the book.
  • I enjoyed it but I know some people will find the language difficult to read.  It should make for good discussion in a book club, though.
  • There are many explanations for the title but it may be seen as a metaphor for a living thing being turned into a mechanism.
  • I have added to my reading list Earthly Powers by the same author.  It contains the much quoted first sentence: ” It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.”  Not everyone can come up with a sentence like that.

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