Today is Someday - Book 2 A Clockwork Orange

          I'm pleased with the 50th anniversary edition of Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange (2012, Nolton & Co) not only because it includes the original last chapter which has been omitted from earlier US editions, but—more importantly—because it contains the 17-page nonfiction article, The Clockwork Condition, written after the Kubrick film catapulted Burgess onto the international stage in 1973.

          Burgess's nadsat 'teen-language' caused me to quit reading this book when I, myself, first attempted it as a teenager and, later, after I saw the film, I chose not to re-attempt reading it.

          I'm glad I (finally) chose to read it.  Reading nadsat seemed to speed my reading rather than slow it.  It entered my brain in this manner:
          My nouns and I were verbing at the adjective bar when an adjective noun, who'd previously been sitting with a group of rather odd adjective nouns across the bar from us, stood, and began to sing in the most adverbially adjective way imaginable.  Her voice sounded like it came from the adjective noun.  My friend Dim made a adjectively-noun noise with his noun, which displeased me in an extreme way.
          Rather quickly I began to intuit (without a glossary) that what I was reading was:
          My friends and I were getting stoned at the local bar when a beautiful woman, who'd previously been sitting with a group of rather odd older men across the bar from us, stood, and began to sing in the most amagingly wonderful way imaginable.  Her voice sounded like it came from the topmost heavens.  My friend Dim made a rude-raspberry noise with his lips, which displeased me in an extreme way.
          While the book's story adheres to the film's plotline reasonably close, there are a few important points where the film failed and those failures affect the intent of the author and deserve comment:

          1 - Burgess's teenage gangs are all between the ages of thirteen and fifteen.  Burgess's main character is in High School and the two girls he picks up at the music store are 11-year old tweens.  Kubrick's gangs are all young adults and so are the women he has sex with.

          2 - Burgess's main character spends several years in prison, but is still only about 17-years old when he's released from prison.  Kubrick's character seems to be incarcerated a very short time and when he is released we wonder why a 24-year old is bitching at his parents for renting out his room.


Davecat said...

I'm hardly unbiased; I love both the film and the book version of ACO, so I have to thank you for posting this, as I didn't know this edition existed. I'd had the version that first hit the States with the omitted chapter, then after lending that out to a classmate in highschool who never returned it, I bought a revised version with the 'missing' chapter. I suppose if I bought Camus' L'Étranger twice, then purchasing ACO a third time should be alright.

Much like a lot of Kubrick's literary adaptations, there are a few discrepancies. I'd seen the film before reading the book, and was surprised that Alex was as young as he was. But I suppose allowances have to be made with that sort of thing, especially when making a film in 1971. For Extra Fun Times, be sure to ask why MontiLee why she hates Kubrick as much as she does (hint: it's because his version of 'The shining' only remotely resembles the book it's based off of).

Apart from the visceral appeal of the violence and the aesthetic appeal of the dystopian setting, ACO drew me in cos of the nadsat speak. Burgess played language like a really good cello guy plays a cello, and I like that ACO and a few of his other works manage to make the unfamiliar familiar.
Also, it's fun, as my friends and I are playing an online game called 'Borderlands', and Vladof, one of the weapons manufacturers, makes sniper rifles with names all based on nadsat terms:

Also! Looks like you've got some spam there!

veach glines said...

Kubrick's direction of Full Metal Jacket, ACO, Strangelove and 2001 transcend their faults and are some of the finest film-making ever. I will agree with MontiLee, however; The Shining, as well as Barry Lyndon, and Eyes Wide Shut were not good. In any way. I consider Kubrick a love-him or hate-him kind of artist.

Davecat said...

I've yet to view 'Barry Lyndon' -- as much as I'm not a man of period pieces, I've been wanting to see it -- but 'Eyes wide shut' can be safely ignored. It came with the Warner bros Kubrick DVD boxset... which, due to rights issues, is missing a few films from his catalogue; among them, the superior 'Dr Strangelove'... but it does include 'Eyes wide shut'. Hoorah.
I tried to watch that film twice, and I just couldn't get through it. For one, the dialogue is recorded incredibly low, which is annoying. Another, I don't like Tom SecretlyCruising, and he plays an unlikeable character, so there's that as well. I may give it one more go before I fling the disk into the road.

Kubrick was a very polarising director. He certainly took liberties here and there with the original material he was asked to adapt, but I'll take one Kubrick over a thousand bog-standard Hollywood directors any day.