Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess

I had “viddied” this “sinny” many times at a young age “Oh my brothers” and it was real “horrorshow” but I had never read the book. Let me tell ya… the language takes a bit to sink in. Even at the end of the book there were bits and peaces that I had to mentally translate to myself. Burgess wrote this from the POV of Alex, a nasty little 14 year old who enjoys theft, burglary, assault and battery, rape and then the dabbles into manslaughter. I say manslaughter because I don’t believe that Alex and his friends intended to kill anyone, they just laid on the beat down a bit too hard.

Oh, and Alex speaks directly to us… the readers, who he refers to as “my brothers” but Alex speaks in a slang that I hear is a mish-mash of Eurasian languages, particularly a lot of Russian thrown in. It takes a while for your brain to process this language. It’s not hard to figure out through context what each of the words means, but it will certainly slow down your reading. The version I read was 149 pages (the original European publishing that DID include the final chapter) and it took me close to a week to finish it. Now I had been told that this was an ultraviolent book… and at the time it may have been… but I didn’t find it to be any more violent than “In Cold Blood” or some other classics that I was encouraged to read. However, the book keeps referring to the goings on as “ultra-violence.” True there are several beatings, a knife fight, a few rapes, drug use, etc… but with the mental translation it took to figure out exactly what was occurring… sure I knew it was wrong, but it didn’t “horrify” me. Then again I grew up in an age where this kind of thing actually does happen. I believe that when this was written, they had a belief that the world was a better place than those of us from later generations believe.

The underlying theme is the question of – if you could force someone to be good… force them to only be capable of doing the right thing… is that good? Or is it better to allow them the option to do evil, provided they have options. What is the “Christian” thing to do in this case? Would God be pleased to see his creations only doing good when they have no choice but to do it? There are other themes running amok through this book, childhood, growing up, the violence inherent in the system, and the futility of rehabilitating prisoners when our prisons are overcrowded and unmanageable to name just a few. There is a lot of meaning in this book, if one can manage their way through it. Some will be turned off by the difficulty of reading the made up language, others will be turned off by the violence… but those who make it through certainly are left with quite a few tidbits to mull over in their minds. I would suggest reading this with someone, or a group, because I assume that the most enjoyment can be reached by really discussing this book with someone. Good luck, enjoy and know that this is a very interesting, vile, yet purposeful book.

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