Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

Book Review – A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

May 8, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2014 3 Comments

Book Review – A Clockwork Orange by Anthony BurgessA Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Published by W. W. Norton & Company on 1962
Pages: 213
Genres: Classics, Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
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five-stars

A vicious fifteen-year-old "droog" is the central character of this 1963 classic, whose stark terror was captured in Stanley Kubrick's magnificent film of the same title.

In Anthony Burgess's nightmare vision of the future, where criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends' social pathology.A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex—to "redeem" him—the novel asks, "At what cost?"

This edition includes the controversial last chapter not published in the first edition and Burgess's introduction "A Clockwork Orange Resucked".

*spoilers will follow*

“What’s it going to be then, eh?”

A Clockwork Orange is set in a futuristic London where nadsats (teenagers) roam the streets at night seeking to cause all sorts of horrorshow (good) ultra-violence. Our humble narrator, Alex, and his three droogs (friends) are those exact types of nadsats that people fear, causing them to lock themselves inside their house to avoid danger. Alex and his droogs relax at the Korova Milkbar drinking moloko plus (milk plus… something) before going out to cause ultra-violence and maybe a little of the old in and out. It’s a night like any other night for Alex and his droogs. Burgess created a specific language solely for these characters which he calls Nadsat. It’s is a fictional language but is essentially an eclectic mix of Slavic and Russian words with a bit of gypsy swirled in. It’s incredibly confusing to follow and does take a while to catch on to but it’s one of the most fascinating aspects of this book.

This is my first time reading A Clockwork Orange and I actually went into it knowing practically nothing about the plot/story. The whole brainwashing aspect reminded me a lot of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest which is one of my all-time favorites, but A Clockwork Orange had a whole other level to the story regarding moral choice. In the book, Alex volunteers to undergo an experimental treatment that would condition him out of his violent behavior and get him out of prison early which was most appealing to him. Even though he volunteers for Ludovico’s Technique, he’s not clear on what exactly he’s volunteered for.

“Is it better for a man to have chosen evil than to have good imposed upon him?”

The technique removed his ability to choose to do right as Alex became violently sick whenever he attempted violence of any sort, including when it involved the need to defend himself against others. I believe that Burgess’ intentions were to show that behavior that is forced, rather than chosen of your own free will, is wholly wrong and that it was much more preferred that Alex make his own decisions even if he was making all the wrong choices. Because in the end, did he not eventually go on to make the right choice himself without the help of the brainwashing? This may have been Burgess’ intentions but it took a lot of contemplating to truly decipher it. Moral choice is such a vast topic that attempting to pack it into this slim novella really left a lot unsaid and I felt he didn’t explore it in as much detail as he could have.

The version of Clockwork Orange that I read contains the mysterious 21st chapter that was left out from the original American publication. It’s the version of the story that most people are familiar with as Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of the novella was also created without the final 21st chapter. I finished the book and then watched the movie shortly after and the ending of the movie was incredibly dreary and lacked any sort of hope for anything good. The book wasn’t chock full of hope but it gave the novel a point. The movie ended with Alex no longer brainwashed and quickly going back to his evil ways but the intended ending that was contained in the 21st chapter showed Alex realizing the wrongness of his actions and even going so far as to contemplate a possible future with a wife and kids of his own. While I personally preferred the books ending, I still didn’t think it was fitting. Some unknown amount of time has passed between the 20th chapter and the 21st, yet it still feels as if his realization of his wrongdoings came completely out of nowhere. After the horrid things he did I didn’t expect such a giant leap into being a good and moral individual.

A Clockwork Orange is a book truly meant to be discussed and analyzed. I was fortunate enough to have buddy-read this with Christina and we traded e-mails back and forth for over a week after finishing. I’m not sure I would have been able to properly wrap my head around the story without her. 🙂

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Book Review – Touch by Alexi Zentner

August 1, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 4 Comments

Book Review – Touch by Alexi ZentnerTouch by Alexi Zentner
Published by W. W. Norton & Company on April 30th 2012
Pages: 272
Genres: Canada, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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one-star

"A breathtaking debut . . . filled with ghosts and demons who lurk in the Canadian north woods." —Andrew Abrahams, People

On the eve of his mother’s death, Stephen comes home to Sawgamet, a logging town where the dangers of working in the cuts are overshadowed by the dark mysteries and magic lurking in the woods. Thirty years after the mythical summer his grandfather returned to town on a quixotic search for his dead wife, Stephen confronts the painful losses in his own life.

It’s funny, I usually start out my reviews with a short little blurb of my own just rehashing the particulars of the story. With ‘Touch’ though, this story was so all over the place that I can’t adequately explain it’s basis; it simply eludes me. The official summary feels deceiving and makes it sound ripe with potential… but it never lived up it, that’s for sure. I truly feel as if I’ve been hoodwinked. I blame the stunning cover! *shakes fist* But honestly, I recall going through this magical realism stage and added practically every book tagged as such. This is one of them. I’m thinking that if the author isn’t Sarah Addison Allen, then I apparently don’t care much for magical realism.

It should be said that according to the Reading Group Discussion questions (yeah, I read them in hopes that it would clarify some things. I was wrong) this is considered more along the lines of mythical realism as it incorporates Inuit mythology. While I could say that the incorporation of mythological elements may give it a smidgen of credibility in comparison to strange magical stuff happening for no apparent reason, it was a poorly managed addition to the story. The story is centered around this small town in the Canadian wilderness which came into existence only after gold was discovered. It’s a story about survival. But then out of nowhere some strange creature would pop up and it was like mental whiplash. Like the mahaha (actual creatures name, I wasn’t just laughing):

“They tickle you until all your breath is gone. Leave you dead, but with a smile.”

Holy freaky shit. That’s the stuff of nightmares. But I was intrigued and wanted to know more so I googled this scary beasty with the funny name. The page I found described the mahaha in basically the exact same way the author did in the book. Like it was copied. And that kind of killed the cool out of it. To me, magical realism IS the story, it’s incorporated and intertwined into the very fabric of the story. But all the magical elements in Touch felt like a strange and ill-fitting addition that was added as an afterthought to an otherwise contemporary tale of survival.

The writing style itself, apart from the actual story, was lacking a much needed finesse. The tale was not linear and bounced all over the place without any indication as to whether we were back in the present tense or still being told the story of the past. The point of view was a poor choice as well. The grandson is the narrator retelling his grandfather’s story. Why not just have the grandfather tell his own story? Even though the grandfather told him his story it seemed unlikely that he would know as many details as he did. There were also strange leaps to other characters and telling the story through there eyes which definitely made it implausible as his grandfather wasn’t even present in those instances.

While the writing reflected definite potential, it was too unpolished for me to enjoy. I can’t remember the last time (if ever) I finished a novel and honestly had absolutely no clue the purpose or meaning of it. So much of this story was too farcical in its inconceivability for me to garner any sort of entertainment. Many people have lauded this book for it’s eerie, haunting qualities but ultimately this left me chilled for all the wrong reasons.

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