My BYOBook club is doing a tribute to David Bowie this month by choosing books off of his 100 favorite books list. I decided to check off ‘a classic from the 20th century’ and read A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess!
I was a bit worried going into this one, as all I really knew about it was that the movie was intensely violent. But, as it turns out, it was much easier to stomach than I expected. That’s not to say it wasn’t hard to read – but it was hard for a very unexpected reason. The book is told first person, and the protagonist uses a very dense and complicated form of teenage slang known as Nadsat, wherein every other word is derived from rhyming slang or Russian and the whole narration is rendered nearly unintelligible.
It took me a while to get into the headspace of the slang, but a side effect of this dense jargon is that it makes the ‘ultra-violence’ seem distant and detached. The emotional part of my brain had to take a backseat to the analytical part, as I couldn’t properly react to the shocking violence until I had figured out exactly what he was trying to say. I’d venture to say that this is intentional and is, in fact, the exact point Burgess is trying to make with the cheerful, nonchalant way that the protagonist executes these horrific deeds.
In addition, the edition I got from the library began with an introduction from the author in which he discusses how the first American printing of the novel left out the final chapter, and how this shortened version is what Kubrick’s movie was based on. That final chapter, without wishing to give spoilers, completely changes the entire message of the book (and therefore the movie), so if you want to read this one, I highly recommend making sure that the version you pick up contains all 21 chapters. Three parts, each with seven chapters. Don’t miss that last one!
Up Next: I’m working my way through a recommendation from my hubby, but it’s a long and somber read so there might be another one thrown in sooner than that as well…