A Clockwork Orange: Book Recommendation Friday


We yeckated back townwards, my brothers, but just outside, not far from what they called the Industrial Canal, we viddied the fuel needle had like collapsed, like our own ha ha ha needles had, and the auto was coughing kashl kashl kashl. Not to worry overmuch, though, because a rail station kept flashing blue — on off on off — just near. The point was whether to leave the auto to be sobiratted by the rozzes or, us feeling like an a hate and murder mood, to give it fair tolchock into the starry waters for a nice heavy loud plesk before the death of the evening. This latter we decided on, so we got out and, the brakes off, all four tolchocked it to the edge of the filthy water that was treacle mixed with human hole products, then one good horrorshow tolchock and in she went.

If you haven’t read A Clockwork Orange, you’re probably wondering what in the hell that passage is about. After a bit of ultraviolence (rape and assault), Alex and his droogs (mates) dispose of their stolen getaway car in a nearby pond.

There you have, in a nutshell, the wonder and frustration of Anthony Burgess’ masterpiece, A Clockwork Orange. After Kubrick’s movie adaptation of the novel came out, I, as an awestruck young man, decided to read the book. Fat chance. The use of invented slang drawn from the Russian language stopped me dead. That earlier edition contained a glossary and I spent hours flipping back and forth trying to discover what Burgess was talking about. I put the novel down.

Twenty some years later while working on my MFA, one of my instructors recommended it. I figured ‘what the hell’ and picked it up again. This time I approached it as I might a trip to a foreign country. I didn’t understand the language, but figured I’d pick it up as I travelled. Things went much better and I got it.

Oddly enough, this novel supports the concept of free will. A prison chaplain in the book sums up Burgess’ position:

When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man.

If you’re a writer, read this book an ear for the author’s voice and the narrative  flow.  This book has of the best voices (in my humble opinion) of the 20th Century.

Norton has published a ‘restored edition‘ that adds back in the last chapter which was deleted from the original American edition. You can get it here. Alas, kindle version is not ‘restored’.

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