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A Clockwork Orange (Restored Text) Hardcover – October 22, 2012
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*Starred Review* It may be a sign of a great work that it can be misinterpreted by detractors and proponents alike. Contemporary readers who saw Burgess’ 1962 dystopian novel as a celebration of youth violence were as far off base as the teens since then who have thrilled to the transgressive violence it—or, at least, Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation—depicts. But paradox is at the heart of this book, as this newly restored, fiftieth-anniversary edition makes more clear than ever. Narrated by Alex, a teenage dandy who revels in language (he speaks a slang called Nadsat), music (especially Bach and Beethoven), and violence, especially violence. When imprisoned for murder, he is offered a chance at reform and leaps at it—but the reform turns out to be brainwashing, an aversion therapy that, alas, leaves him able to enjoy neither beatings nor Beethoven. Upon his release he becomes first a victim of his victims, then a cause célèbre of antigovernment activists before . . . well, publishers offered different endings to British and American audiences, as readers will discover here. What makes A Clockwork Orange so challenging, besides the language (“He looked a malenky bit poogly when he viddied the four of us”), is Burgess’ willingness to use an unsympathetic protagonist to make his point, which is essentially that it may be better to choose evil than to be forced to be good. (For, as it is put by two different characters: “When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man.”) Readers can revisit or discover a classic that, while drawing from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock, has in turn influenced authors from Irvine Welsh to Suzanne Collins. Extras include a thoughtful introduction by editor Andrew Biswell, reproductions of manuscript pages annotated by Burgess, and a previously unpublished chapter of a book that was to have been called The Clockwork Condition, in which Burgess intended to set the record straight about his intentions now that Kubrick’s film adaptation had made him famous. Readers will learn much, including the meaning behind the book’s title. All in all, a fitting publication of a book that remains just as shocking and thought provoking as ever. --Keir Graff
“One of the most groundbreaking and influential novels of all time―and one of the best.”
- Irvine Welsh
“A terrifying and marvelous book.”
- Roald Dahl
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State-provided hallucinogenic milk apparently does not pacify the youth gangs that plague London. Alex and his "droogs" become the unwilling experiments in the state's surgical pacification scheme. CLOCKWORK raises the question of whether free will or state madated determinism rules the human soul in a dramatic showdown between priest and commissar. As in WANTING SEED, medicine becomes the grim handmaiden for the state and a constant nemesis for the prolife Burgess.
This book works well as linguistic fiction with the future culture of England defined by the newspeak of Russian/cockney slang. We visit CLOCKWORK'S crumbling, socialist England as witnesses to its unique newspeak language defined in a glossary at the end of the book. The slang puts us in scene. CLOCKWORK is classic dystopia and succeeds where its sister dystopia WANTING SEED, also written in 1962, fails.
The american book edition drops the last chapter as does the movie, but it is here for you to read. The reflective Alex decides to grow up and apparently look for a wife to propagate his kind as society has been supressed. As in ONE HAND CLAPPING we are left in a moral desert created by the working class and the mass culture that allows them to flourish. The elitist Burgess would have nothing less.
The Wanting Seed (Norton Paperback Fiction)
I may have started out reading A Clockwork Orange because my friend told me how good it was. And then I continued to read it because it was engaging, disturbing, and thought provoking. Even though the book was written over 30 years ago, I believe it is still as powerful today as it was back then; perhaps even more so. Alex, the protagonist, is almost innocently committing violent crimes with his friends; for he isn't -trying- to be bad, he just is. He likes violence, and that's the way he is.
When Alex's friends gang up on him and leave him to be arrested by the police, Alex is sentenced to 14 years in prison. But then the opportunity to change presents itself to Alex, and he can't help but take the offer. Without ruining the story as so many previous reviewers have already done, I can say that when everything is said and done, important questions arise: is being good truly good if it is not by choice? Is it good to be bad, if that is what one chooses?
The book first came out in the 60s, and the American version lacked the last and 21st chapter from the original story. When it was republished, the book had the 21st chapter. Depending on which copy you read, with the last chapter or without it, the book will have an entirely different feel to it. The old copy represents the horrible realization that bad minds are always bad; the newer version leaves the reader with hope. Hope for Alex, and hope for oneself. Change is possible, the book says, no matter what sort of person you are.
A Clockwork Orange is truly a great work, one that will appeal to people for different reasons; and affect them in completely different ways. But it will affect them.
"What's it going to be then, eh?"
There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, George, and Dim. Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry.
The Korova Milkbar was a milk-plus mesto, and you may, O my brothers, have forgotten what these mestos were like, things changing so skorry these days and everybody very quick to forget, newspapers not being read much neither. Well, what they sold there was milk plus something else. They had no license for selling liquor, but there was no law yet against prodding some of the new veshches which they used to put into the old moloko, so you could peet it with vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom or one or two other veshches which would give you a nice quiet horrowshow fifteen minutes admiring Bog And All His Holy Angels And Saints in your left shoe with lights bursting all over your mozg. or you could peet milk with knives in it, as we used to say, and this would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of dirty twenty-yo-one, and that was what we were peeting this evening I'm starting off the story with."
Last paragraph, last page
"Oh it was gorgeosity and yumyumyum. When it came to the Scherzo I could viddy myself very clear running and running on like very light and mysterious nogas, carving the whole litso of the creeching world with my cut-throat britva. And there was the slow movement and the lovely last singing movement still to come. I was cured all right."
'Honey for the Bears', the second story in the book I had, was just as unreadable.
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And then you start using some of the words in real life.