April 04, 2012

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

I almost feel like somethings wrong with me for not liking this book; it seems to be overwhelmingly popular. And it does have some good points, but I just couldn't get into the book. Nor did I think it was absolutely brilliant. It was good, but not to my taste.

Alex is in a gang that roams the streets at night, causing mischief and mayhem. They strike terror into those who meet up with them and are capable of causing great violence. But when Alex gets caught his life changes drastically. And after a few years in prison he is offered the chance to go free again, but only if he submits to a new experiment the government wants to try out. Not realizing what he'd be giving up, he goes for it, and discovers what its like to have choice taken away from you.

I personally didn't think Alex suffered enough. Actually I think he gets off pretty easy throughout the book. So the message involving Alex and free will and such didn't really get through to me. Although I don't really think I'm for a souped up government for thinking that way. Alex just isn't a compassionate character, its part of his design. And since I would never think like the majority of the characters in this book, I just can't connect to any of them. I can't even muster compassion for the victims because of the way it's written. Alex's friends are second to him so we don't really get to know them too well, aside from being partners in his mayhem.

The writing is absolutely off the wall. I was so frustrated within the first few chapters that I almost decided to set it down and leave it alone for awhile. But then I came across a certain word, "okno" and something clicked in my brain. And I realized that a lot of the "slang" was actually Russian. And after I discovered that I found reading it a lot easier. There's still unknown slang, but at least I was able to translate some of the words to make for easier reading and wasn't hopelessly lost trying to figure out what on earth the characters were saying. Because not even context helped some of the slang be recognizable. Even so, I wasn't a big fan of the way this book read because of it. I think it enforced too much on the reader if you really wanted to drive a lesson home.

And the lessons in this book are unusual. Themes of good vs. bad vs. free will vs. control are predominant. And the author makes you question what is best. But there's also a lot of violence in this book that can be so gruesome and "horrorshow" that the lessons could be lost while the reader is focused on the horrible things that happen. It's definitely not a book for those who don't like to read about violence, rape, murder, and other various terrible things. Although most of it is only recognizable if you can get past the slang.

Not a book for me. I know people love it but apparently it just didn't speak to me. I'm not sure if I'll watch the movie as a result of not really caring for this book. It may have some great themes, but I just couldn't get past the writing.

A Clockwork Orange
Copyright 1962
192 pages


  1. This is a tough book, I started it, and restarted it several times. I was finally forced to read when I brought it with me on a flight to New Jersey. As I read, I would write the slang translations in the margins. Most of the slang can be figured out by the context of the sentence. When I finished, and leafed back through the book, I noticed that my margin translations got less and less as I grew accustomed to the language.
    All in all, I think the book is less about overbearing government, or the loss of free will than it is a coming of age book where the main character fails to come of age. This idea didn’t come to me until the final chapter (the 21st chapter, by the way. 21 = adult… get the connection?) where Alex is sitting in a diner, and runs into one of his old friends. His friend has grown up, doesn’t use the slang anymore, is an upright citizen, while Alex is… just same old Alex.
    This is a great book and worth putting some time into.

  2. That's a good idea writing the translations in. Unfortunately I've never been able to bring myself to write in a book that wasn't a cookbook. Too much being yelled at when small to never ever deface a book I guess. I didn't even write or highlight in my text books in college as a result.

    I can see your point about it being a coming of age book. I never really looked at it from that perspective because I was too busy disliking Alex. Thanks for presenting that new point to me.