Books are cheaper than heroin, but they DO add up....

Amy, Carrie, Chanin and Sarah buy (and read and review) their own stuff. They've been known to shop around from dealer to dealer looking for the best price. If you're interested in slipping them something to try out, just contact us.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Before I even begin my review, let me just say that the new Blogger interface is fancy.  And pretty.  And makes me nervous that I'm not doing something right, so let me know if this doesn't post in English.  Also, before anyone asks, I have not seen the movie.  I've seen clips and know that it's considered by many to be a classic, but I've never seen it in its entirety.  So Stanley Kubrick has in no way influenced this review.

The first thing I found interesting about this book, was the note from Burgess explaining the reason for reprinting A Clockwork Orange in 1995.  Apparently the original version of the book (as published in the U.K.) had 21 chapters.  The later American version had 20 chapters.  The last chapter, in which our narrator, Alex, sort of matures was not published in the U.S.  This American version is also what Kubrick used as his vision for the film.  So if you've seen the movie, Mr. Burgess would like you to know that it's not the entire story.  I'm also pretty sure he'd like you to buy the reprint from 1995 so he can continue to make some money. 

I'm not sure I can say I liked this book.  Then again I definitely didn't dislike it.  It's a pretty quick read once you become accustomed to the language.  There are some big themes to work with and it's an interesting writing style, but I have some issues with the main character.  The book begins with Alex as the head of a group of young, well.........thugs I suppose is the right word.  He and his friends spend their evenings drinking (milk with knives comes up quite a bit and I took that to mean a drink laced with some sort of designer drug that brings out the desire for senseless violence), robbing, assaulting, raping, and consequently running from the highly ineffective law.  They aren't the only gang out and about.  It seems that in this time and place, the night is ruled by youth willing to beat down anyone who dares to venture outside of (and eventually not even venture outside) their home.  One of the first scenes involves the group of friends beating up an old man walking home from the library. 

The violence continues to escalate.  The is in-fighting amongst the original group of friends.  Alex eventually gets arrested and is thrown in jail.  Though he is young his crimes are grievous, so he is treated as an adult in his sentencing.  While in jail he pays lip service to reform and then takes part in manslaughter.  Alex is then picked to be a part of a new therapy designed to permanently reform even the most violent of offenders.  He is to be an example and an answer to the growing violent trend in what was once a civil society.  They give him a drug and force him to watch ultra-violent footage for hours at a time.  This eventually elicits a strong involuntary response from Alex.  Every time he is in an environment of confrontation, he becomes physically ill to the point of incapacitation.  He's deemed reformed and released back to society. 

However that isn't as great as it seems either.  With the crack-down of the police and the rumor of this new treatment, crime rate has gone down considerably.  People are no longer afraid to go out at night.  Alex's old gang is no longer functioning as one member is dead, one is now on the police force, and another's whereabouts is unknown.  Alex tries to go home only to find his room being rented out.  He is brutally beaten by an old friend - all the while unable to defend himself.  His story becomes the example of a political movement that feels the current "state" has over-stepped its bounds.  Eventually, Alex is returned to his original mental state.  At that point he tries to return to his old ways.  That's the end in America.

In the U.K., Alex becomes dissatisfied with the violence.  He runs into an old member of his original group in a coffee shop.  His friend has grown up, gotten married, and is having children.  Alex yearns for a baby.  He wants to do more than destroy, he wants to create and nurture.  And that's the end in the U.K.  I guess my biggest problem is that Mr. Burgess spends 20 chapters following Alex (who NEVER apologizes to or shows proper respect for his own parents........and he whines quite a bit for a guy who regularly knocks people's teeth out) in his immature ways, only to give us one chapter in which Alex shows even a hint of understanding that life might be bigger than just what Alex wants.  Even at that, Alex seems to want a baby for what it means to him and not what it would mean to anyone else.  He doesn't go through the emotions of wanting to find a partner - a woman that he might respect and love - and then what they might create and nurture together, but rather he grabs onto the idea that he wants a kid to show him things.  That's still pretty self-centered.

This is not my favorite book, but I'm glad I read it. Anyone think I should see the movie? 

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