Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Feeling a malenky bit bezoomny in me gulliver, brothers.

Robbery, severe beatings, general havoc, theft, more beatings, and a viscous rape. All in the first thirty pages of A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. All committed by fifteen year old Alex and his droogs. And that's just the beginning. Oh, man where do I even start...
First, its important to realize that this boy Alex is living in a frightening alternate universe where there are basically no laws that govern the night. Its a good idea to stay indoors because boys like Alex are on the prowl, looking for mischief and aching to draw blood. There are not many police about at night, and really parents aren't governing their kids as they should. Alex is a known criminal. He loves the thrill of violence, especially when the blood begins to flow, tearing up the night with his cronies and going home to his parents' house like nothing happened. His passion for violence is matched only for his passion for classical music, especially triumphantly powerful composers like Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven. The music conjures up images of chaos and destruction for Alex, almost as satisfying as the acts themselves. So far, he has escaped harsh punishments, but one night his luck runs out and he's taken to prison for murder.
Ok, I never saw the movie, but I heard it was pretty disturbing. The story is difficult to follow at first because Alex speaks the nadsat language of his generation, but it doesn't take long to catch on. And its scary to think about children, yes he's fifteen in my mind that is a child, so devoid of empathy. I guess its not so far-fetched considering the horrible things kids see and hear now. They are constantly being desensitized by movies, music, and video games...but that's another argument. It's more for Alex. He derives pleasure from the violence, and he doesn't want to change no matter how hard they try. While he is in prison, he learns how to work the guards, pretending to study the Bible and ask for help in changing so he can re-enter society as a clean fellow. He knows there's some research going on to "cure" criminals and he's pretty sure he can fake it enough to get out and get back to business. Of course, he's a prime candidate for re-education. And he's all for it. All he has to do is watch some movies...
What is the meaning of freedom? Burgess explores this question as Alex undergoes aversion therapy to "'cure" his violent nature. Take away a man's freedom of choice, is he still a man? Is it really better to force behavior change rather than allowing a person to be who they are, even if it's violent? Are we doomed to become mindless automatons, living by routine, no more unique than a piece of fruit? Very thought provoking and moving. Honestly, I felt sorry for Alex. Was he a product of his generation, or truly evil? He's used and abused, and in the end...maybe he grows up a little.
What I found interesting beyond the scope of the book was the forward by Burgess. A Clockwork Orange was not his favorite book. Far from it; he almost wishes it would die. Other works he found personally more satisfying as a writer are forgotten. He theorizes, and I fear, that many artists feel the same about their early works. What one may write as an amateur is celebrated as the creator moves on to mature and meanwhile everyone is still talking about the "breakthrough" or "debut." How can the artist recover from that? I always like hearing the story from the author/artist's perspective; their take on the work we talk so much about. I wonder what Beethoven would think about Fur Elise being a ringtone and how Shakespeare would like our studying Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet in high school as opposed to his less critically acclaimed works.
For myself, I guess I'll just have to save the best for last. Keep 'em guessing, keep 'em talking.

I highly recommend his version as it has a previously unpublished chapter (in America). Such a tragedy considering the last chapter seems incredibly important to the development of Alex's character. Another fear of mine as a writer...if I go the official publisher route one day, I will fight tooth and nail to keep my words in their entirety!
I need something fluffy now...

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