[RGC 39.] A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

[read: demented, in many ways, but yawn for me]

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Perks of being an English major: already knocking out books on this list because you have to read them for class. My first run-in with this work was on the first day of my capstone course (a class you take when you’re a Junior/Senior and are slowly being pushed out of the wonderful world of college) on Finnegans Wake. {More on that one work in progress later} Everyone had to introduce themselves with their favorite book at the time. I said Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald because it’s my go-to all-time fave.

A few people mentioned A Clockwork Orange as their favorite book thus far, though it’s a work they hadn’t finished reading. They called it “enjoyably painful.” And lo and behold, we read it for class alongside the Wake, which can really only be defined the same way (maybe worse). Is this a good thing? No, it’s sadistic.

Truthfully, A Clockwork Orange was easier to read than Finnegans Wake though both are written with linguistic experimentation, obscurity, and just a pinch of solid confusion. The immediate shock factor of A Clockwork Orange was pretty high, as was an initial reading of the Wake. Written in a combination of Russian/English slang, invented by Burgess, you’re thrown into an alternate dystopia where violence is the norm for the rebellious heathen youth that is our protagonist, Alex. I love using the word ‘youth’ but pronouncing it youthhhhhhh with a long drag at the end. It’s the little things in life that define us.

Oddly enough, while reading the Wake, all other books are ruined in terms of creativity and cleverness because Joyce did weird stuff before everyone else wanted to get in on the game. So you’re basically sitting there, flipping through the pages like, “Yeah, I get it. He’s going to kill this woman, get thrown in jail, be conditioned to be a normal actor in society and lose his sociopathic impulses which is a reflection on the repressive government of the State. And then he may or may not reform himself and become a part of society, but that society is pretty terrible in the end, so moral dilemma up the wazoo. That sucks and all, but tell that to Huxley, Atwood, Orwell, More, and Swift. In fact, put you all together in a room and you’ll probably write me the same book right now.”

Sigh, this class is making me a literary snob. Nevertheless, it’s a good read and challenging for the untrained eye. Luckily, there’s a glossary that goes along with it so it can be easier to read. I suggest you read it without the glossary (and without the introduction; though Burgess is funny, he tells all his secrets) first and allow yourself the experience of being completely lost in a work and then decode the language later. I think I, for one, read it at the wrong time, where I’m comparing everything with Finnegans Wake, but otherwise it’s a great very strange read for anyone out there looking for their daily dose of immoral people as your main character that you grow to like and then detest yourself. Demented, I know.

9 out of 10 would recommend.

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