Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Clockwork Orange, a Review

I was introduced to A Clockwork Orange back in old high skolliwoll. My droogs and I used to, like, hang out at a certain dromy and spend our time viddying acclaimed sinnys. Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation (1971) was a real horroshow and I had my glazzies opened wide, Oh my brothers. The protagonist, fifteen year old Alex, was a miscreant and a true troublemaker, spending all his raz crasting about town, tolchocking poor innocent vecks for no reason other than to have a real horroshow time, forcing the old in-out-in-out on helpless devotchkas, and many other vile deeds. Yes, Oh my brothers, Kubrick’s sinny opened my glazzies wide. I found the film both repulsive and fascinating. The source material for Kubrick’s sinny was from a book by Anthony Burgess, and this book made its way onto my TBR all those years ago. 

To begin, Burgess’ acclaimed novel varies from the Kubrick adaptation. The sinny ends with a slightly different take on poor old Alex’s fate. This is because at the time of A Clockwork Orange’s original publication (1962), the American publisher decided to omit Burgess’ final chapter. This final chapter puts a completely different ending on the book, and Kubrick’s film is based on this “incomplete” version. I had no idea what to expect with the true ending, but I was curious to find out. 

A Clockwork Orange is a malenky bit disturbing. It is graphic and filled with pages of ultra-violence atop ultra-violence. I found it hard to stomach, especially in the opening few chapters. Alex and his droogs are wretched from the beginning, but even after Alex’s transformation the ultra-violence doesn’t stop. No, Oh my brothers, it just finds a new victim. Alex is abused time and again. His jeezny has changed and Burgess does a wonder at making the Reader have pity on poor little Alex. 

Linguists will love the way Alex govoreets. Burgess’ created language, Nadsat, is a mixture of Russian, English colloquialisms, and other slangs. Much of it is, like, left up to the Reader to pony through context. I did not pony all of the slovos Alex used, but I did pick up on most. The use of Nadsat really enhances the read, Oh my brothers, lending credibility to the novel that otherwise might have been absent. Nadsat also fits in comfortably with the dystopian future Burgess imagines; it’s easy to compare this language with leetspeak and other modern slang (and eerily with Orwell’s newspeak). 

I also want to remark on Alex’s transformation in the book. The brainwashing experiment was a memorable scene from Kubrick’s sinny; the book makes it even more memorable and more horrifying. Remarkable to go from utter loathing to distrusting sympathy for a character, yet Burgess succeeds. Alex is a true anti-hero worthy of scorn and love. 

I can’t say that I recommend A Clockwork Orange to everyone. No, my brothers, I cannot say this at all. It is quite disturbing on its own oddy-knocky, especially when coupled with Kubrick’s sinny. Nevertheless, the book is a treat to read for a mature Reader, if only to work through the Nadsat. From my ponying, both Burgess’ and Kubrick’s works had a heavy impact on the counter culture of the times. The satire was piercing and the cautionary tale was too close for comfort. A Clockwork Orange is an important work of art, both cinematically and in literature. It is right to be challenged, but it cannot and should not be banned. 


Rachel Bradford said...

This is another of those books that I've always intended on reading and haven't managed to yet. I assume that I'll be able to pick up the slang fairly easily because I have a couple years of Russian language under the belt. But we'll see!

I found the movie a bit disturbing!

Thanks for your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

fantastic review!! any story that can transport the reader through dialect alone should be right up your alley, proof is in how seemingly effortless you use Burgess/Clockwork's own in your review. it is a gift.

too right the film is disturbing. but disturbing can be good, especially if the cautionary aspect is picked up on, which Kubrick/Burgess make impossible to miss.

they also have the best cover/poster work...


logankstewart said...

@Rachel: If you found the movie disturbing, then you'll definitely think the book that way. With the Russian language background, though, you may really dig the read.

@L: Thank you! I really liked the slang from this read, enough that I've incorporated some words/phrases into my vernacular.