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The Wanting Seed (Norton Paperback Fiction) Paperback – December 17, 1996

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Editorial Reviews


“Wildly and fantastically funny. . . . Here too is all the usual rich exuberance of Mr. Burgesss vocabulary, his love of quotations and literary allusions. . . . A remarkable and brilliantly imagined novel, vital and inventive.” (Times Literary Supplement [London])

About the Author

Anthony Burgess (1917–1993) is the author of many works, including A Clockwork Orange, The Wanting Seed, Nothing Like the Sun, Honey for the Bears, The Long Day Wanes, The Doctor Is Sick, and ReJoyce.

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Product Details

  • Series: Norton Paperback Fiction
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reissue edition (December 17, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393315088
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393315080
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Anthony Burgess (25th February 1917-22nd November 1993) was one of the UK's leading academics and most respected literary figures. A prolific author, during his writing career Burgess found success as a novelist, critic, composer, playwright, screenwriter, travel writer, essayist, poet and librettist, as well as working as a translator, broadcaster, linguist and educationalist. His fiction also includes NOTHING LIKE THE SUN, a recreation of Shakespeare's love-life, but he is perhaps most famous for the complex and controversial novel A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, exploring the nature of evil. Born in Manchester, he spent time living in Southeast Asia, the USA and Mediterranean Europe as well as in England, until his death in 1993.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 76 people found the following review helpful By P. Nicholas Keppler on February 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
Your bookstore is stocked full of novels predicting mankind's future, but none quite like this. With the Wanting Seed, Anthony Burgess turns the typical dystopian novel on its ear. Instead of a methodical, technorganic world, Mr. Burgess presents a smelly, macrobiotic mess of overpopulation and disharmony. Instead of a more stringent emphasis on rightwing ideals, the aforementioned overpopulation has caused an enthusiastic governmental endorsement of homosexuality and opposition to typical family ideals. Instead of a grim, foreboding atmosphere, Mr. Burgess employs a lighthearted, quirky tone, allowing readers to smirk at the ridiculousness and incongruity to which the world of the Wanting Seed has been driven. It is obvious that Mr. Burgess, the same literary practical joker who filled his best-know book, A Clockwork Orange, with make-up slang, meant to poke some well-needed fun at the dismal 1984/Brave New World genre.
But just because the Wanting Seed is a work of playful parody and dark comedy does not mean there is nothing profound about it. In fact if I had to pick the one dystopian novel towards which our society is most surely leaning, it would be this one (which is pretty amazing considering it was written in 1962). As counties like China and India are regulating procreation and instituting their own versions of Mr. Burgess' "population police" and the value of human life wilts ever downward, I wonder how close we are to vision of the Wanting Seed. The novel stands as a warning that repressing man's natural urges and diminishing his worth is not the answer to the problem. Your bookstore is stocked full of novels predicting mankind's future, but few as startling and important as this.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 4, 1997
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The conceit of this book is that the governors of a futuristic, terribly overcrowded world will do anything to discourage procreation. The book was written in 1962, when birth control pills were just around the corner and vasectomies were certainly heard why, one might ask, postulate a society that encourages homosexuality as a means of controlling the population (as far as I know, AB had no axe to grind in this department)? There are several instances of Burgess' science being a bit off the mark, but one quickly realizes that's beside the point. Burgess was clearly less concerned with science than with his own form of speculative social anthropology. His characters are well-defined but essentially artificial, meant to propel his thoughtful social theories and populate some wryly chilling suppositions about the direction modern life might be taking. Still, to those who admire him, Burgess is a unique and brilliant wordsmith, a man who loves and knows language so well that he can twist and reinvent it for his own purposes (no one who's read "A Clockwork Orange" needs to be told that). There are funnier and more down-to-earth Burgess books, to be sure. However, if you are amused by pure wordplay and don't mind keeping a dictionary handy when you'll enjoy Burgess as a whole and this book in particular.

p.s.: A Burgess must-read is "Nothing Like the Sun", Mr. B's mini-biography of Shakespeare
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Christopher M. Williams on May 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
Most people will doubtlessly read this book along side or in light of the more famous dystopian novels, such as "1984", "Brave New World", and (let us not forget) "Anthem", and rightfully so. In this literary conversation that considers how humans would respond to different versions of a futuristic totalitarianism, "The Wanting Seed" has its own unique perspective. However, unlike some of these other novels, when it is when forced to stand alone, I'm not sure if it's that great of a read. I gave the book 4 stars because it makes the genre more interesting, but I would have given it 3 stars if I was judging it on its own reading pleasure.

The most interesting aspect of "The Wanting Seed" is Burgess's twist on the usual dystopian plot, where a brave individual battles against some variation of a static, overbearing Big Brother. Instead, Burgess posits a state that has figured out how to gauge and steer man's competing psychological impulses into predictable cycles. Thus, political order is in constant flux between hyper-rational centralization (Rousseau, Marx) and one that gives ample release to Man's all-too-human side (Malthus, Hobbes, Smith). As the novel begins, the political order is at its most rational: homosexuality is encouraged by the state, couples are allowed one child, people eat a state-rationed protein mash, and rules don't have to be enforced by the police. We first meet Beatrice-Joanna Foxe after the death of her only allotted child. The doctor absurdly encourages her to be "modern", "sensible", and of course "rational", telling her to "think about this in national terms, in global terms. One less mouth to feed. One more half-kilo of phosphorus pentoxide to nourish the earth".
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By lazza on September 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
The Wanting Seed is a novel set several hundred years in the future. The population growth has exhausted the food supply. The government scorns human reproduction and rewards homosexuality. God and religion are all but outlawed. Soon anarchy reigns and everything is turned upside-down. Realistic? Well, probably not. Consider it to be a "Brave New World" written by someone with a wicked sense of humour. This is not science fiction, but more of a statement criticizing the world today (even though the book was written in the early 60s).
Much of the book really sizzles, with biting satire on nearly every page. However the story eventually runs out of steam ( deviates to a sub-story involving the military which, while initially interesting, bored this reader). But let this minor fault not deter you from enjoying a witty book.
Bottom line: a rare, yet slightly flawed, gem.
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