Sandi's Reviews > A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
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's review
Sep 06, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: 2008, sci-fi
Read in September, 2008

Well, what can I say about "A Clockwork Orange"? Maybe I should first suggest that anyone who wants to read it should print out this glossary: A Nadsat Glossary. I will be eternally grateful to Matt (Tadpole316) for sending me that link. My printout is looking a little rough.

I had seen the movie about 15 years ago. It was disturbing and many of the images were already so much a part of our cultural consciousness that it was at once familiar, yet disturbing. Many of the images are permanently etched in my brain. I recently realized that I had never read the original novel, so I picked up a copy. As most books written before the age of user-friendly word processors, it's very short, only about 200 pages. But, it's not a quick read. The first of the three parts is rather difficult to get through. The language really slows down reading and there are so many disturbing scenes that I just had to stop when I finished one and go back later. The movie actually changed some of the scenes to make them more palatable. For example, in the movie there is a scene where Alex takes two women back to his room and they have some rather raucous consensual sex to the tune of the William Tell Overture. In the book, Alex takes two ten-year-old girls to his room, gets them drunk, and rapes them. It was horrific, but it illustrated just how amoral Alex and his fellow malchicks were. The real surprise is the last sentence where you find out just how young Alex is for someone who has been doing the things he does for as long as he's been doing them.

The book gets easier to read in part two and part three is very comprehensible. According to the author's introduction, the original American edition of "A Clockwork Orange" left out the last chapter. It was put back in with the 1986 edition. I'm glad the last chapter is included now. I think the book would have been very dissatisfying without it.

The themes of "A Clockwork Orange" are pretty clear. What is the role of society in the morality of youth? How far should government go to rehabilitate criminals? What is the nature of violence and what is its effect on the perpetrators? Can anyone truly be redeemed?

I can't say I'd recommend "A Clockwork Orange" to everyone. It is a tough book to read. It's extremely violent and disturbing. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect is that the reader is in Alex's head as he's committing the most atrocious acts and, somehow, Burgess manages to write the scenes in a way that the read feels the adrenaline rush that comes from ultra-violence. It made me feel dirty and voyeuristic. But, I like literature that puts me in someone's head and feel what they feel, even if it's ugly. To me, that's the mark of great writing.
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Comments (showing 1-15)

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message 15: by Matt (new)

Matt I agree with your take on the disturbing aspects of the movie vs. the book, Sandi. The William Tell Overture thing in the movie seemed almost more like comic mischief compared to the disturbing version depicted in the book. Also, the scene in the movie that involved the home invasion/rape of the writer's wife with Alex singing "Singing in the Rain" makes me feel slightly ill everytime that I see it, yet I only vaguely remember this scene in the book.

Sandi Sherri, yy edition did not have the glossary in it. It's a shame, it really should.

Matt, the Alex of the book would probably never have sung "Singing in the Rain" because his musical world was classical music. If anything, he would have sung some operatic aria instead.

message 13: by Ruth (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruth I read the whole damn thing before I even found the glossary in the back. Interesting experience. Still, I think it's a terrific book, in both senses of the word. Excellent, and terrifying.

Good film, too.

Sandi I wish there had been one of those PS editions at the bookstore. I like editions that have some critical commentary and things like glossaries.

message 11: by Abi (new) - rated it 4 stars

Abi "As most books written before the age of user-friendly word processors, it's very short, only about 200 pages."

What? Most books written before word processors are short? This is ridiculously untrue. The length of A Clockwork Orange has nothing to do with the technology available to Burgess when it was written.

Carmine I loved the book, read it about 6 months ago or so. I had never seen the movie, but I did buy it when I was halfway through the book to watch when I finished.
Actually, I enjoyed reading it without using a Nadsat dictonary, makes it more of a journey so to speak.

The film was VERY odd but I enjoyed it also.

message 9: by Kiriva54 (new)

Kiriva54 Burgess had a fascination with linguistics. He even went so far as to invent the Nadsat language for "Clockwork Orange". The beauty of inventing and employing his own language is overshadowed by the violence of the book. He later wrote a short book about language called "A mouth full of air" It's one of my favorite reads.

Sandi I'm going to have to look for that one, Kiriva! I love language myself. I think that's part of why I liked this book.

message 7: by Kiriva54 (new)

Kiriva54 Sandi wrote: "I'm going to have to look for that one, Kiriva! I love language myself. I think that's part of why I liked this book."

In a way it's a shame that Burgess is known for Clockwork Orange. He was a very versatile writer who my father and I both enjoyed reading. His mouth full of air I reread every couple of years. It inspires me
to teach second language.

Madeline Once I adjusted to the nadsat after a couple of chapters I actually found it very quick to read...what I found strange was that I could still sympathy for Alex after seeing him do all these awful things...

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Very nice review, Sandi.

message 4: by layne (new) - added it

layne  payne this helped alot thanks!

Xtin this is really helpful! thanks you so much!

Michelle Thanks I'm now motivated to keep reading this book, now that I can understand what 90% of the words mean.

Marieke Hi, i'am from beligum and i have to read this book for school and first i didn't want to but now i'm motivated, thanks a lot

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