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Past Group Reads > A Clockwork Orange: Part 1

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message 1: by Jenn, moderator (new)

Jenn | 303 comments Mod
Please discuss part 1. No spoilers for the rest of the book please!


message 2: by Donna (new)

Donna | 2 comments Just wanted to share this Nadsat glossary:

http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/clockwo...

It helped me figure out what they were talking about, although most of the time the context had clues, but sometimes I was lost. :)


message 3: by Phil (last edited May 03, 2014 10:16AM) (new)

Phil (lanark) Some editions have a glossary of the Nadsat "yoofspeak" - but others don't.

Also, of interest to US readers is the controversial "missing final chapter",



I've used spoiler tags *just* in case the vague mentions of the tone of the ending are classed as spoilers - this way you can make up your own minds:

(view spoiler)


message 4: by Jenn, moderator (last edited May 04, 2014 08:33PM) (new)

Jenn | 303 comments Mod
Honestly, I'm not really enjoying this book so far. I'm really hoping it'll get better since I've heard mostly good things about it. First of all, all the made up slang is making it really hard to get through it, even using the glossary. And I just can't get interested in a bunch of delinquent teenage boys.

What are your thoughts? Why do you think Burgess created this slang? What do you think of a society where teenage boys run rampant and adults have no control and are completely scared of them?

It seems at the end of this part that Alex finally does get caught. I'm thinking he will be put in a prison where they will try to reform him. The back of my book says, "And when the state undertakes to reform Alex to 'redeem' him, the novel asks, 'At what cost?'" That is a good question, "At what cost?" I wonder what they will do to him and how far they will go.


message 5: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) Jenn, I agree. I'm actually wondering why I bothered to buy this book. Only reading it because of this club, but I'm beginning to think that life's too short to waste time on it. To abandon or not.....I'm not sure.


message 6: by Jenn, moderator (new)

Jenn | 303 comments Mod
Don't abandon it yet. I just finished part 2 and it does get better. Not amazing, but at least I'm interested in finishing the book now. I don't want to give away any spoilers but the rest of this book is going to raise some interesting ethical questions.


message 7: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) Thanks Jenn! I shall try to persevere! :)


message 8: by Kate (new)

Kate | 22 comments Jenn wrote: "Honestly, I'm not really enjoying this book so far. I'm really hoping it'll get better since I've heard mostly good things about it. First of all, all the made up slang is making it really hard to ..."

Hi Jenn. I've just finished reading the first part. In answer to your question about the reason behind the slang, I think it's to try and disconnect the reader's emotions from the extreme violence and gang rape. Also, perhaps, to put another barrier between Alex and the reader and make him even more perverse, obviously through his distasteful language. Even though it's hard to understand, it sounds crude.

I'm hoping it improves too. Atm I think he's a vulgar character who deserves what (I hope) comes to him. At this point, I can understand why it was banned.


message 9: by Jerilyn (new)

Jerilyn | 32 comments So hard to read. They say the invented language softens the brutality. I keep thinking it cannot mean what I think it means. Senseless violence and inhumanity.


message 10: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer  | 163 comments I have trouble with senseless violence in both movies and television. This book is extremely violent which is why I didn't finish it when I first attempted to read it in my final year of high school. That and the fact that I didn't have patience for Burgess' made-up vocabulary. However, I am almost finished part one this attempt and while I am not blown away, I am interested to see how things unfold. I am interested to see if there seems to be some philosophical point that the author is trying to make.


message 11: by swwords (new)

swwords (-sww) | 19 comments Just finished Part 1 and I was struck by how lyrical the language is. I am getting a bit stuck on some of the words and was guessing what they could have meant, so thanks Donna for glossary link.

When I finish the next part I'll say more.


message 12: by Dolores, co-moderator (new)

Dolores (dizzydee39) | 275 comments Mod
I read somewhere that Burgess invented his own slang language so as not to date the book. If he used slang from his time period he felt people in future generations might not be interested or think it applicable to them. It's an interesting viewpoint.


message 13: by Dolores, co-moderator (new)

Dolores (dizzydee39) | 275 comments Mod
Kate wrote: "Jenn wrote: "Honestly, I'm not really enjoying this book so far. I'm really hoping it'll get better since I've heard mostly good things about it. First of all, all the made up slang is making it re..."

Kate, I like your reason for Burgess making up the slang. It makes a lot of sense.


message 14: by swwords (new)

swwords (-sww) | 19 comments BTW in my copy there's an intro by Blake Morrison who mentions when CO was printed in the US they omitted the last chapter, so it was printed with 20 instead of 21 chapters.

I was just wondering what version you're reading and does it change what you think of this book?


message 15: by Joseph (new)

Joseph Renini | 4 comments Jenn wrote: "Honestly, I'm not really enjoying this book so far. I'm really hoping it'll get better since I've heard mostly good things about it. First of all, all the made up slang is making it really hard to ..."

Jenn, hang in there. I actually enjoyed the first part the most. That said, Burgess uses teen delinquency merely as a vehicle for studying the unintended effects that might come from societal scientific intervention in crime prevention. Essentially, the main character will be corrected BEFORE he commits crimes (no spoilers :-) ). The slang helps to separate the alienated youth from society. Have a nice glass of the old moloko if that helps :-)


message 16: by Joseph (new)

Joseph Renini | 4 comments Jennifer wrote: "I have trouble with senseless violence in both movies and television. This book is extremely violent which is why I didn't finish it when I first attempted to read it in my final year of high schoo..."

Jennifer, for me, the key to Clockwork Orange is to think about how the government and society react to the events, not the events themselves. There will always be people like Alex, and I grant that I had to pause the film the first time I saw it. However, the key questions aren't whether Alex's actions are good or evil, but how Alex became that way and what society tries to do to proactively correct his violent impulses.


message 17: by Phil (new)

Phil (lanark) Just finished part One and I agree with Swwords - the language Burgess uses is gorgeous - which is in complete juxtaposition with the brutal ugliness of what it's describing.

This is written in 1962 - youth delinquency is a problem, teens speak a language adults don't understand, adults are split between those advocating "understanding" and wanting it dealt with a "short sharp shock": plus ca change, eh?

It's uncanny how prescient the book is - even down to the constant use of the word "like" as a punctuation mark, adding no meaning to a sentence.

What surprised me (and I'd read the book before, as well as seeing the film) is how young the characters are: alex is just fifteen, and the devotchkas he brings back to his flat to get drunk and have sex with are just ten.

I found the Russian basis of the teen's nadsat language intriguing too. I spent the whole part trying not to look at the glossary unless I absolutely had to.

On the whole, I see CO as one of those books that make you uncomfortable - like Lolita, like Naked Lunch, like the Infernal Desire machines of Doctor Hoffman - but just because it makes you uncomfortable doesn't mean that it can't make you think and it doesn't mean that it can't also be beautifully written.


message 18: by swwords (new)

swwords (-sww) | 19 comments Phil wrote: "What surprised me (and I'd read the book before, as well as seeing the film) is how young the characters are ..."

Now that you mention it, it's true. Do you think that adds to the shock factor?

Phil wrote: " ... just because it makes you uncomfortable doesn't mean that it can't make you think and it doesn't mean that it can't also be beautifully written."

Yep, because of this I'd class it as a work of art. However, I was surprised to read (in the intro of my copy) that Burgess did not rate this as highly as his other books. This just makes me want to read all his other works now. If only there were more hours in the day.


message 19: by Phil (last edited May 23, 2014 09:12AM) (new)

Phil (lanark) I think Burgess is a hugely under-rated author: one of those, like Graham Greene and William Golding who seems to have lost his place in the world of letters since his death. Part of the problem with Burgess though is that he was very much a jobbing writer: he wrote for money. Which means that his work can be very variable in quality - although it's always fabulously written.

I can definitely recommend his autobiography (especially the first volume, which takes you up to him becoming a professional writer). He was a very late developer as a writer - he was a teacher in the Far East and only started writing properly because he'd been diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour and decided he'd write five novels in the year he had left so that his wife would have something to live on (Clockwork Orange was a book he drafted in this period).

In the end, the diagnosis was somewhat premature and he lived another 30+ years. However, the way he writes of his first wife dying of cirrhosis of the liver is heart breaking.

By the way, the book that's generally regarded as Burgess's magnum opus is Earthly Powers, published in the 80s (which is an enormous book, in lots of ways). But I can also recommend watching the Gerard Deppardieu movie of Cyrano de Bergerac, for which Burgess wrote the rhyming English subtitles.

(Apparently he also worked on the caveman language for French film about the Stone Age called Quest for Fire aka La Guerre du Feu).

(Note - I've edited this post because I found I'd made a few factual errors)


message 20: by swwords (new)

swwords (-sww) | 19 comments Phil wrote: "I think Burgess is a hugely under-rated author ..."

I just had no idea - thanks for the info and pointers Phil I'll be looking out for more of his works now.

Burgess must have a real instinct for language to write rhyming English subtitles for a French film. That's impressive!


message 21: by Alana (new)

Alana (alanasbooks) | 627 comments I think perhaps I'm not having as much trouble with the slang because I'm listening to an audio version? So much of the speech comes through voice inflection and the reader's attitude, so I can follow along very well (too well, in places), even when I don't follow the words he's using.

I, frankly, now have even less desire to watch the film version, and I'm not even fully through part one! Very disturbing content.

I'm curious to see how it turns out and how this controversial chapter works out. Maybe one ending is more cliche than the other?

Also, I can't imagine having been allowed to read this in high school, but I went to a fairly conservative high school, so who knows.


message 22: by Alana (new)

Alana (alanasbooks) | 627 comments Did anyone else notice the ongoing thread of music in this section? Interestingly, Alex makes references to the classical composers like Beethoven, not any contemporary artist. It's practically his mix tape, since it apparently even excites him on a sexual level. Any thoughts on that?


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