Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Premature Book Review: A Clockwork Orange (Burgess, 1962)

Anthony Burgess' novel is a tad different from the film. I hear that he did not care for Kubrick's interpretation. I would argue that Kubrick had a good handle on the story as the book goes, but being a visual medium, film must translate differently. Burgess' tale is less graphic than Kubrick's interpretation, but as a novel we get more of what is going on in Alex's head. We know something ugly is going on, but on film we need to see it.

The most difficult part of the book is interpreting the slang. Burgess uses a mixture of corrupt Russian, Gypsy terms, and rhyming slang. Eventually you get the hang of it, but at times it can be a bit off-putting. I think part of this is a literary device to separate you from Alex. He is supposed to be part of something you and I don't fully understand, so by using essentially another language he is not one of us.

My biggest problem with the book was the inclusion of a previously banned chapter, at least the final chapter is described as being unpublished in previous American versions. Frankly, it is a huge let down. The penultimate chapter ends as does the film, which was a perfect way to finish in my opinion. The following chapter killed the whole thing for me, as Alex returns to his former life, but with a change. If you read the edition pictured above, I suggest skipping the final chapter, or at least setting the book aside for a few days before tackling it.

10 comments:

Copyboy said...

Incredible book my brothers!!!!!

Darius Whiteplume said...

All lewdies should give it a go. Horrorshow, it is. ;-)

Lisa said...

A must read. Whether you like it or not.
It's like... one's duty to read it :D

I don't think there's a way to get around it anyway. Many topics in pop culture relate to this book and its topic.

Darius Whiteplume said...

True. You likely miss a lot if you are not familiar.

Ivan said...

I agree with your assessment of the last chapter--that's why I'm glad I still have my early-1980s paperback, that ends with chapter 20. Chapter 21 is a snooze, and really makes it seem as if Burgess is chickening out.

joe bloke said...

I think A Clockwork Orange is one of the greatest achievements in twentieth century literature. likewise, I think the film of the same is probably Kubrick's finest work. but, Darius - and Ivan - as to your casting out of the book's closing chapter: hell, no!

the last chapter is the whole point in the book. the primary reason that Burgess hated the film was because Kubrick chose to ignore the last chapter ( well, that, and he hated the book, in general, because he believed that he had written much better books, but A Clockwork Orange was the only one that anybody really cared about ), thereby negating the book's intention: YOUTH WILL HAVE IT'S DAY. I think the final chapter is essential to the story. in the end, despite all that is done to him, Alex IS cured ( all right ), but not by society, not by the authorities, the law, not by the Ludoviko technique, which is proved to be as barbaric as we have all been led to believe little Alex is. his cure is: HE GROWS UP.

Bubbashelby said...

I agree with Joe Bloke. Whether you like the point or not, missing the last chapter is indeed missing the point of the entire novel.

Regardless, they are both essential reading and viewing for sure.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I do find the final chapter to be a bit apologist. I don't think turning 18 will erase the kind of sociopathy Alex exhibited. Unfortunately, The very end made me completely forget his meeting with Pete and seeing him all grown up. Maybe, and prepare to open fire, Burgess did not know how to word it properly. There is a sense of embarrassment with Pete's fiance pointing out how childish Alex's language was, but I don't think it was pursued well. I can forgive Alex the murder, which was (by his account at least) an accident, and certainly the world treated him poorly after the treatment (not to mention the treatment itself). However, he is still a brutal rapist and calculating thug, and American cities are full of forty year old gang bangers. Maybe if Burgess put more text into it, maybe two chapters, it would have come out better?

Tommy Salami said...

Kubrick made a better movie than Burgess made a book, in my opinion. I had to hunt down the censored chapter in the '80s, and it was a huge letdown. I love the film's cynical approach to how the government and opposition both use Alex and neither really cares about him or what thugs like him do to their innocent victims. Rape and murder are not "part of growing up," and the kids we saw torturing animals are the assholes we deal with every day now that we let them "grow out of it."

Darius Whiteplume said...

I do think with age comes at least a modicum of wisdom, but it does not bring intellectual maturity.

I did enjoy the book, but I did not dislike Alex as much as I did in the film. That's not to say I think Burgess glorified him, but by being less graphic we are more inclined to sympathize. Since, in the book, we see him in prison we know that he is no longer the big fish. I think that in reality he would have suffered far more at the hands of his cellmates, or learned to become even more brutal. If he were in Oz he would either be running the joint, or getting sodomized on a regular basis.

Post a Comment