Friday, June 13, 2014

Nessie Reviews ☆ A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Release Date: April 17th, 1995
Date Read: 5/26/14-6/1/14
213 Pages
Rating: ✰1/2

A vicious fifteen-year-old "droog" is the central character of this 1963 classic, whose stark terror was captured in Stanley Kubrick's magnificent film of the same title.

In Anthony Burgess's nightmare vision of the future, where criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends' social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex—to "redeem" him—the novel asks, "At what cost?"

This edition includes the controversial last chapter not published in the first edition and Burgess's introduction "A Clockwork Orange Resucked".

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I've actually bought this book a bit over a year ago because I had heard excellent things about the movie and wanted to read the book that inspired it before watching the film. It took a while for me to get to reading it because other books and video games (and classes) would call my attention more strongly. But in the year it took me to get around to reading it, I was constantly reminded about what an influential book it was and that it was on Time's "100 best English-language novels since 1923". Needless to say, I expected to be completely mind-blown by this novel, to be completely drawn in, and be constantly wrestling with questions about morality and leave the book with a radically different view of the world.

But that's not what happened. If anything, I felt like I spent most of the book expecting something big and mind-blowing to hit me. It never came, and once I put the book down I basically felt like this.

Yes,  I "meh"ed a classic, but don't hate me
But I'm getting ahead of myself, let me start from the beginning and with the things I liked.

The first thing I noticed when I began reading the book was the slang. Alex, the narrator, speaks predominantly in an invented slang called "Nadast". At first this made the book a bit hard to understand, as I felt he was talking in a completely different language. However after about twenty or so pages of reading I started to get the hang of it and reading was not as much as a struggle. But I think this initial disconnect threw me off a little bit, even though Alex was a very charismatic narrator. That being said, as a writer, I see the genius and value in using Nadast.

As I mentioned, with the slang there is a disconnect between what you read and what you eventually come to understand is happening. And the first part of the book is filled with atrocious crimes committed by Alex and his gang. He describes these acts as if he's narrating an orchestral piece and since I couldn't perfectly understand all the words, it wouldn't be until half-way through or directly after his crime that I understood what had transpired.

My face after each realization

As a writer I soon came to appreciate the role the language played in distancing Alex (and by extension the reader) from Alex's crimes. I think it also aided it understanding just how much of a true sociopath he was if he could describe the most heinous acts in the most whimsical ways.

This book is divided into three sections, each with seven chapters. I knew not to expect too much from from the first section because I knew that its primary purpose was exposition. So I expected all my expectations to be met by the second part. That didn't exactly happen.

There was the occasional quote from a character that caused me to put down the put as I had to seriously mull over what they just said. One such quote was this one said shortly before Alex began his treatment: “Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness? Is a man who chooses to be bad perhaps in some way better than a man who has the good imposed upon him?”  I think this question in particular struck me because I had witnessed the true evil that Alex was capable of. Furthermore, seeing what Alex was reduced to after the treatment really humanized him for me and made this question more weighty. 

Overall, I think the one problem I had with this book is that I went in expected way too much from it. If I had gone in with low or no expectations I probably would not have spent every page waiting for something "big" to happen. While reading I did like some of the questions and themes raised, but I just wanted more. It's only as I now write this review that I'm discovering where my feelings of "meh"-ness came from.


I still would recommend the book--because of the great moral questions raised--but I would strongly remind future readers not to go in expecting obscene amounts of books simply because they are classics. Even if a book is a classic, still go in expecting nothing as you would from any random book picked off a shelf. At least that way, you won't have to experience the "disappointment" I felt. 



Vanessa is Val's bestest buddy, and she will be guest posting throughout the summer because she loves to read and write. You can also find her at her own blog, Musings of an Aspiring Writer.

2 comments:

  1. Huuuh I've never heard of this book even though you mention it's a classic. Needless to say, it's not my tyle of book either. :/

    And it to answer your questions I'll be going to THE Anime Expo the one hosted at the LA Convention Center in California. So if ya going, tell me! ;) What will i be watching? Well I'll be looking forward to Eternal Summer--definitely--and I am very curious about Tokyo Ghoul, some oldied that I haven't ever watched like Death Note (even though I have READ the manga) and Mirai Nikki.^^ Also I am waiting for Date a Live 2 to finish so I can marathon that. I want to watch Gatachman Crowds...even if I don't know what it's about...And some more of course! I will finally be reading a book The Duff by Kody Keplinger right after I finish my summer english homework book Pope Joan. Hopefully I watch most of my list for the expo! Eeps!

    Love ya, doll!♡

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    1. Haha I haven't read Clockwork Orange either, but I asked my bestest buddy Vanessa to review it and so here it is.

      And POOP I don't live anywhere near California (East Coast sorry!). Oooo I've heard of basically all of these, but have only watched Free! I think this summer I'll finally watch Attack on Titan, and also some others that my friend is making me watch (Yoramushi Pedal aka SUPER BIKING POWERS lol)

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