EVERYONE Has Read This but Me - The Catch-Up Book Club discussion

A Clockwork Orange
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CLASSICS READS > A Clockwork Orange - *SPOILER*

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Kaseadillla | 1370 comments Mod
Hello all - starting up discussions for the JULY 2017 BOTMs. This discussion is for the group's poll selection for the CLASSICS category: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.

This discussion will be FULL OF SPOILERS. If you haven't read the book and don't want to ruin the ending, head on over to the spoiler-free discussion HERE .

Happy reading!
Kasey


Tania (Geoluhread) | 30 comments Growing up in a household that speaks Russian, we invented words that are a mesh of Russian and Arabic. When we couldn't remember the Arabic word for example, we would say the Russian one, and conjugate it with Arabic grammar, and vice versa.

Reading this book was no different, the odd language was mainly Russian, so it flowed seamlessly, it was only odd in the first few pages to have to get used to retrieving my Russian vocabulary while reading an English-written book (as English is not my first language).

I truly loved this book. It tickled my dystopian bone. Especially the final chapter, which was strangely omitted from the movie. I think the entire book revolves around the idea delivered in the final chapter, the movie just lost that so it was deeply flawed.


Morgan | 1 comments The introduction in my book mentioned how the original American edition didn't include the 21st chapter. Likewise, it said that Stanley Kubrick's movie ended with Alex being cured, (I haven't seen the movie, so correct me if I'm wrong) forgoing Burgess's conclusion. I thought the last chapter added much more depth to the story. What did you guys think?


message 4: by Sarah (last edited Jul 07, 2017 07:21PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sarah | 360 comments Morgan wrote: "The introduction in my book mentioned how the original American edition didn't include the 21st chapter. Likewise, it said that Stanley Kubrick's movie ended with Alex being cured, (I haven't seen ..."

I read this ages ago so I don't remember a whole lot, but I remember being really irritated when I found out that the American version had the original ending removed. Supposedly the US publisher felt that we (the American audience) would prefer a darker ending. Fortunately I was still in college at the time and my university had a copy of the English version.

I believe I remember hearing that Stanley Kubrick was not initially aware of this change to the American version. When he found out, he opted not to change the movie because they were too far along in the process.


Kandice | 147 comments Burgess divided the book up into 21 chapters very deliberately because 21 is so often the perceived age of absolute maturity. Leaving out that last chapter and overlooking the importance of the chapter number really changes the ideas of the book.

I think this book is absolute genius and leaving out the last chapter takes so much of that away. Even without it, though, the Nasdat allows the reader to remove themselves a bit from the violence. Enough, at least, to keep reading. First time through, you are concentrating so hard on understanding the slang, that by the time you realize how incredibly violent a scene is, you can't stop. I'm not squeamish, but I bet some readers who are finished because of this tact.


Ieva Strupisa (NotesOfABookDragon) | 22 comments Tania wrote: "Growing up in a household that speaks Russian, we invented words that are a mesh of Russian and Arabic. When we couldn't remember the Arabic word for example, we would say the Russian one, and conj..."

Luckily, I had the same. Since I know Russian, it was way much easier for me. I can only guess, how hard it must be for those who are not acquainted with Russian.


J.P. Nicks | 5 comments I just finished this one! About 40% of the way through the book, I was pretty sure I was going to hate it. The slang and language was easy enough to get used to but 7 long chapters of Alex committing "ultra-violence" got so boring. It picked up very quickly after that and I found myself enjoying the rest of it quite a bit. I grew to almost sympathize with Alex and enjoyed the social commentary that came in the last half of the novel.


Sarah Suchon Done! I was basically going to write exactly what Kandice wrote.

It's crazy how an added or missing chapter can completely change a book! When I read this as a teenager, it was the version without the 21st chapter. Without it, I do love "I was cured all right." as a closing line. But the 21st chapter definitely gave the book a lot more meaning.

And I agree that Nadsat speak padded the violence in the book and made it an easier read. This would have been very difficult to get through if it hadn't been written in such a fun way that creates a puzzle for the reader as they go along trying to decode the message. I also felt the language really helped build and connect with Alex's character. I enjoyed little things like Minister of Interior Inferior turning into Int Inf Min and then into Intinfmin.

This book is intimidating in the first chapter, but once you get rolling it's amazing! 5 stars for sure!


Markus | 16 comments I can only agree with what has been said already. I came to love the Nadsat slang and the more characters around Alex spoke in a normal way, the more exclusive I felt. Like being one of the droogs. This all peaking in him meeting his old friend at the end, who stopped speaking Nadsat completely.

I had only seen the movie, where the last chapter wasn't adapted. I adore the film but i'm really glad that I read a version with the 21'st chapter because it added a deeper and more coming-of-age kind of vibe.

You could write a whole book about the moral/ethical questions in the novel. But I like to think of it as a rebellious, idealistic piece of writing, you know. The old: Think for yourselves! Emancipate yourselves! Still a very current topic.

Loved it.


message 10: by Jen (last edited Jul 17, 2017 10:36AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen Lewis | 24 comments In the forward Anthony Burgess mentioned that this was not his favorite work, despite it being what he will be remembered for. Does anyone know which was his favorite?


Kaseadillla | 1370 comments Mod
Agree with Kandice in that I think the language helps you be removed from the violence. I think it would have been a much different effect reading it in plain English.

Overall, really enjoyed this book. Great ideas, well written, and clever. I can't help but think that a lot of dystopian cliches spun out from this book - ex. in the show Lost when the scientists on the island are doing experiments on some people by forcing them to watch weird videos strapped in chairs injected with whatever... straight from the book.


Matthew (FogJuice) | 15 comments Seeing all this discussion about the last chapter made me jump ahead. Apparently I have one which is missing it. Last chapter is chapter 6 in part 3 and ends as the movie does, with "I was cured all right." This is a very old, 1965 edition of the book. 60¢ cover price from Ballantine. The cover art doesn't fit at all. Looks like 50's greasers kind of gang, even on a motorcycle. It also has a Nadsat dictionary in the back. I take it not all editions do?
When I'm done with it, I'll have to run by the library and see if they have an edition with the last chapter.


Carol  Vanhook (vanhookc) Matthew wrote: "Seeing all this discussion about the last chapter made me jump ahead. Apparently I have one which is missing it. Last chapter is chapter 6 in part 3 and ends as the movie does, with "I was cured al..."
Yes indeed, you will have to get a hold of the last chapter!

I am in part three of the book today, and it seems so odd as I watch on the news that O.J. Simpson will soon be released back into society. He has had his training courses, quite different from Alex's therapy, but yet society is hoping for the same results of rehabilitation for both Alex and O.J.


Sarah M I enjoyed this book, but all the violence in the beginning was definitely too much for me. I just don't like reading about rape and everything, even if it's serves a purpose in the book, so it was really hard to get through those parts. When I started this book I only imagined the main character being a thief - I had no idea the book would be so brutal, and I don't really think the language completely helped cover it all up.


Sarah Suchon The only part that was hard for me to handle was when he took the 10 year old girls to his place. I was disgusted, for sure. I know he was younger at the time, but not THAT young and it's hard to think about that happening to anyone but especially someone so young.


Sarah M I completely agree about the 10 year olds being the most horrifying part. I almost stopped reading it there, but I heard it was an interesting philosophical book so I tried to push through. Thank goodness the violence kinda died down as the book went on!


aPriL does feral sometimes  (CheshireScratch) | 283 comments I read this without Chapter twenty-one in the 1970's, and I saw the movie at that time. This time I bought the eBook from Amazon, and it had an explanatory introduction by Burgess along with Chapter twenty-one.

Burgess, raised Catholic, says he was disgusted by the idea of being programmed to being good - he is horrified by Aversion Therapy - but he apparently completely ignores the rituals of his religion insofar as it continuously indoctrinates it's adherents through rituals - but he also says he loved living the life of ultraviolence through his characters. Aversion Therapy is and was a real thing, btw.

However, I also read an explanatory article by Burgess printed in The New Yorker, where he suggests one of his reasons for the book was to pay bills so he needed a novel that would sell. Apparently it was not truly in his mind to be writing the Great British Novel. But he adored the part of Catholic doctrine which emphasizes free will to choose being good or evil. He dislikes very much that some Protestant faiths imply God has already determined our futures and fates, including who will be fated to go to heaven or hell, indicating we are born already destined to be evil or good by God. This idea of God choosing everyone's fate beforehand repulsed him more than a person choosing to do evil.

Youth culture is also satirized along the way, along with false piety (politicians), liberalism, scholars and police work.

Personally, I find myself literally split mentally over this book. Abstractly, I see the book club discussion questions immediately: about the value of being Good if it is socially enforced or chosen for you, and that Evil is a matter of childish immaturity.

The one thing that is not much analyzed are the victims. I am no fan of those who play victimization games all their lives for personal gain. But utterly ignored in the professional and classroom commentary, analysis and literary abstract ideas is the fact Alex raped two ten-year-olds girls, and he and three other 'teens' viciously raped a young wife in front of her husband, driving him mad and killing the woman somehow, as well as knowingly murdering a female senior citizen in her own home after breaking in, along with beating up other seniors. Alex terrorizes his own parents, being bigger and stronger than them at age 15.

Yet, it is the victimization of Alex which is recognized and made right in the novel by giving him a well-paid job, so that age 19 he is thinking of impregnating a woman (by force, for all we know) and making a son of his own.

Frankly, although the author says he actually thinks Free Will is more important than being good or evil and this was the true moral of his story, and that he actually believes Evil is a matter of childish immaturity, to me, he only made a good case for using Aversion Therapy. Chapter twenty-one only proved to me that charismatic psychopaths who are getting bored of gangbanging are permitted to move on peaceably due to the rampant political corruption in society.

Either way whether one takes in the Disney ending of Chapter twenty-one or the more real American version since it is absolutely clear Alex is a psychopathic serial killer, sexual predator, animal abuser (maybe) and child rapist, as well as the inventive leader of murderous gangbangers, I wonder that most of us must find the author's presentation of Alex such an attractive protagonist, we blithely skip off into the tangent fields of abstract philosophies and ignore what Alex is - someone who rapes ten year olds and rapes and murders women. For many of us, we see Chapter twenty-one as the redemption of Alex, which the author meant us to feel.

I believe no one in the real world who knows an Alex (I did) would ever go on and on blathering about the larger picture of the social and moral implications of locking up someone who committed the crimes Alex did in sympathetic terms of his immaturity, or whether he had a right to choose Good or Evil instead of being molded by Aversion Therapy (parental guidance and support doesn't count here).

I see the fun of the book's supposed philosophical arguments about immaturity and Free Will, but I am also completely dismayed, disgusted, frightened, horrified, and generally enraged by most everyone accepting Alex's redemption in Chapter twenty-one, ignoring he is still a fricking animal who raped children and killed people without ever looking back or feeling ANY guilt.

Am I the only one who is noticing how fricking twisted the author's Grand Philosophical arguments are given his murderous sexual predator psychopathic anti-hero?

People are wondrously misdirected by beautiful words over action, aren't we?


message 18: by Kristin B. (last edited Jul 21, 2017 10:42AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kristin B. Bodreau (krissy22247) | 195 comments aPriL does feral sometimes wrote: "I read this without Chapter twenty-one in the 1970's, and I saw the movie at that time. This time I bought the eBook from Amazon, and it had an explanatory introduction by Burgess along with Chapte..."

Ditto everything here!

I would have preferred the book end at chapter 20. A psycho is still a psycho and I can happily think he will eventually get what's coming to him. The last chapter horrified me.

All I could think about it poor Pete's wife. This young woman has no idea that she married a violent thug and rapist. Speaking of, why wasn't he ever punished? Alex told the police all about the break in and rape of that woman. The police would have known that this woman died. Why was everyone not rounded up and punished for rape and manslaughter? They were so keen to punish these youths, where was the punishment here?

I was also raised Catholic, and let me tell you, aversion therapy and external forces that require goodness without free will is built right in. I get the whole "There is evil in the world because God gives us Free Will stuff." But there is a lot in the Catholic faith basically saying be good or else. For people who really believe, the threat of an eternal fiery damnation keeps them from doing bad more than their own desire to be good. I'm an atheist now and I have respect for people of faith. I don't mean to denigrate the faithful. Not all of them anyway. But honestly, not sure how much devout religion really differs from aversion therapy sometimes.

My copy had a bunch of extra content. I skipped it all. This book bugged me so much I just wanted to be done with it. I generally hate skipping stuff, but I just had to in this case.

The whole idea that this horrible person is allowed to grow up and be part of society without really paying his debt enrages me. He doesn't stop being violent because he is suddenly good. He does it because he's bored. And he expects his son to grow up and be like him as a teenager. So he's totally cool with having a kid who rapes, beats and murders people. And what happens when Alex is bored with a nice normal life?

I have a nine year old and he gets punished when he does something wrong. And we discuss the fact that when he grows up, if he does things wrong he will have to face the consequences. So he has to take his consequences now so that when he gets older he shows some restraint. Because for him being in trouble means that I take away his tablet and tv. But as an adult it could mean getting fired from his job or going to jail. He knows that he has to become a functioning part of society as an adult and that means not just doing whatever you want, even if you are young.

I feel like my nine year old understands morality far better than Burgess.

Look at what this story teaches youth. It's cool if you're shitty now, you'll grow up and it will all be fine. You'll grow out of it and we'll just let your youthful transgressions go. Because hey, kids are just being kids. ARGH.

Ok. Sorry. Rant over.

TL:DR this book made me mad and should probably never be read by teenagers.


aPriL does feral sometimes  (CheshireScratch) | 283 comments Kristin wrote: "aPriL does feral sometimes wrote: "I read this without Chapter twenty-one in the 1970's, and I saw the movie at that time. This time I bought the eBook from Amazon, and it had an explanatory introd..."

I, for one, am totally ok with rants, Kristan! I found chapter twenty-one enraging!


Carol  Vanhook (vanhookc) To end the book at C. 20 seems to leave Alex watching battles between political thoughts and communities, and questioning theories of living in an utopian world. Alex is infatuated by cult glammor and power. It's a violent world, but hey, it is what it is, thinks Alex, so the story goes. And in a world of evil and corruption, one has to take care of self, thinks Alex. He's cynical but feels healed through his recent experiences when his old self returns in his mind.

Add back the last chapter... This is a coming-of-age story, concluding with the passing of youth. Teens feel wise but do make mistakes. It is hopeful that they learn from their mistakes, don't harm other life, and have many watchful eyes along the way to provide proper guidance and safety. This is the way it has been throughout time. This is the way it will be for future generations, as the author suggests. We do our best to teach and protect our children. As they pass beyond youth to adulthood- at age 18-19-or 21, as the author suggests, new chapters in life await and hopefully productive citizens have blossomed from youthful experiences.

Alex enjoyed ultraviolence. This is unnatural for teens. Alex did not learn from his horrid mistakes. The story didn't prove justice served and proper rehabilitation. In a real world, Alex's criminal nature would have led him to be be tried as an adult. Didn't three die from his actions? Was justice served? Could this be why Anthony Burgess didn't think this was his best work?


message 21: by Kristin H (last edited Jul 22, 2017 04:15PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kristin H The good features of this book, for me, were that it was fast-paced, creative, and thought-provoking.

What I didn't like is, for me, the story (and main character) did not completely convey what the author intended. I get that it's very philosophical and the whole characterization of youth versus maturity thing. However, Alex does not represent anything near a typical teenager and his thoughts at the end are not, to me, signs of true change or maturity. (I guess Burgess had to go pretty extreme to sell books - shock entertainment sells.)

Yes, teenagers can be self-centered and will do stupid things (I have 2 teenagers; I also taught/coached teenagers for 13 years.), but Alex seems to be the embodiment of Freud's "id." While it might be typical to see this in a very, very young child, it is not typical for a teenager. Alex is a person who sees only his own needs and wants, sees nothing wrong with getting them (regardless of what it takes, who it hurts), people around him (including his parents, friends) are pawns for helping him get what he wants, others should be sympathetic to him but he is not toward them. These are characterizations (or symptoms) of something other than simply being young.

Suddenly, because he's the ripe-old age of 19 ;), he's cured from the ails and angst of youth. Then, he runs into one of his old "droogs" - they reminisce about their crimes as if they were just toilet-papering schools/houses or playing harmless pranks. There is no evidence of remorse or how their actions affected people's lives (evidence of true maturity) - thoughts even young children are capable of. Now he wants to have a child? Scary!

I'm glad I read it rather than not. Also, I'm glad to have read the full book (with Ch. 21), but it does present an interesting question of how it changes the story and what readers actually prefer.


Laura (LauraPainter) | 37 comments While it was a compelling read, I'd have no desire to watch the movie version. I agree with the above comments. What I would add, is that his attitude in the last chapter seemed consistent with his parents. He never seemed to be taught consequences early in life. His parents just let him do whatever he wanted as a 15 yr old and he blamed everyone else for the outcome. So it kind of made sense that Alex would be the same kind of parent. Sad really.


Sarah Suchon I hear everything everyone is saying, but we have to remember that this is a dystopian novel about a world where teenage gangs rule the world. It's supposed to be shocking and horrific and the adults in the world are scared of these teenagers and this is basically the norm of the time the book is set in meaning everyone is conditioned to it, so the lack of punishment and all of the remorse we wish to see is not something prominent in this dystopian setting. I loved the book for what it was, even if it isn't something I would agree with morally or in our current time.


message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

aPriL does feral sometimes wrote: "I read this without Chapter twenty-one in the 1970's, and I saw the movie at that time. This time I bought the eBook from Amazon, and it had an explanatory introduction by Burgess along with Chapte..."

Thanks so much, aPriL, you just saved me plenty of time reading and commenting :)


message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks Sarah for putting my thoughts into words.
I agree this novel is set in a dystopian future so you can't view it with the morals that we hold today.
I was captivated by this novel and soon got used to the nadsat language used by Alex.
I think the book was about free will and the right to use it even in a criminal way.
I think the last chapter was more a realisation by Alex that he would only have as much influence on his children as his parents had on him.
Isn't this the case in the world we live in today?


Zainab Al Lawati (zainaballawati) | 89 comments I really disliked the book. Yes, eventually I got used to the Nadsat, but I am not sure why did I have to at the first time? I am not a big fan of learning a new set of vocab that adds nothing to me neither now nor in future.

Also, it was too gruesome to me. I know you guys mentioned that the Nadsat helped in making a distance between the violence and the reader, but that wasn't the case. I could picture everything and it gave me shivers, especially the rapes. And the Nadsat made it worse as I was guessing some words depending on the context and I always expected the worse.

I started enjoying it slightly when he was finally in jail, but soon after that, I was not interested at all. Apparently, this book is not for everyone, and it definitely wasn't for me.

I took more than a month to complete a 200 pages book.


Leesa | 228 comments Just finished. That was the toughest book I've ever read and there was at least three times that I put it down and swore I wasn't picking it back up. The violence was shocking to read for me and I only started enjoying it when he went to jail. Then, for me it picked up and I became interested.
I gather why people love it and why it's such a controversial book/film. I however read for pleasure and to relax both during and after a hard day and this novel was neither pleasurable nor relaxing. I'm glad to be finished!


Sarah Suchon You did it! At least now you know what's up with the book and have a little trivia knowledge under your belt! Trying to find a bright side for ya :P


Leesa | 228 comments Haha thanks Sarah! I am proud that I didn't have to create a 'did not finish' shelf for it.... Silver linings!


Laura (Laurah30) | 146 comments I finally finished this book and I have mixed feelings about it. I listened to the audiobook which was amazing to listen to. The narrator gave Alex an authentic voice and it helped me to understand the language better.

When i think of when this book came out and how much of it still applies today - it is mind boggling. Senseless violence! Lack of empathy for others - it's chilling. Yet it kept me engrossed as difficult as it was to listen to.

I didn't feel any sympathy for Alex. How could i? He had no empathy for anyone but himself. He was an outrageously evil and grandiose character. I felt sorry for everyone who got in his sights. The police were not likeable but I find this is often the theme in these books; their behaviour mirrors the criminals they are dealing with.

It is a classic and I am glad I read it but I may have some nightmares as a result.


Kerri | 346 comments I'm glad to see I was not the only one who found the ending lacking. Yeah, it's supposed to show a "people change" attitude and have a brighter future ahead, and it is a lot less bleak and chilling than ending it at the 20th chapter. But as others said, I found his lack of remorse unsettling. And maybe Burgess was trying to show that that remorse would come in time, but I didn't really see it. So I feel that Alex did not get what he "deserved" and I didn't see that he learned much of anything from his experiences. He still wanted what he wanted without much regard for anyone else, but his desires had simply changed.

I did find the social commentary amazing though, and all the plays for power throughout the entire book. Between Alex and his "droogs", the different gangs, the police, the guy doing the brainwashing and the governement, the people against the government and the governement, etc. and all the ways they tried to use Alex and others as pawns. That was my favorite thing about this book: the show of all of the subtle and obvious ways people try to grab and hold on to power.

I am also glad that I learned Russian once upon a time (it is very, very rusty now as I haven't used it in over 10 years) because that did help with the Nasdat, which I found annoying but also fascinating. I read that Burgess thought this was a cowardly way of writing, hiding behind the slang in a way, but I thought it really helped give a grounding to the story and show a different world.


Charley Girl (CharleyGirl9) | 73 comments It is just a freaky read. The futuristic world of the narrator, Alex, is eerie. The criminal activities and attitudes are frightening and I though Alex and is friends were much older until he is incarcerated and he states he is 15 years old. The way that the state intends to fix Alex is more frightening than the criminal activities.

I felt a bit icky after finishing this book but I continual to think about it. It was like 1985 only scarier.


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