In this edition, I found that the Foreword by Martin Amis revealed too much about the book, though I appreciated that whenever he transcribed an excerpt from the book he added the meaning of the slang terms between brackets. Since I had never read the book or watched the movie, I had no idea what I was getting myself into and, when reading those bits, that is exactly what I wondered – what have I got myself into?
The introduction by Andrew Biswell proceeds to mention what influenced Burgess when researching for A Clockwork Orange, including a few dystopian novels of his time. I found some quite interesting myself and am wondering if I still can get copies.
It also mentions the initial reactions to the novel when it first came out and its impact, including but not limited to how it influenced different artists. It contains a lot of inside info, which I believe true fans of this work will appreciate it. And, let’s not forget, it’s the full book as written initially by Burgess, containing that wretched last chapter which so many found uncharacteristic to the persona of Alex.
Now… Regarding the book itself. I have to admit it is probably the most disturbing book I have ever read. I cannot even fathom how twisted a mind needs to be to come up with the things written here. The brilliancy of creating a whole new vocabulary is obvious. Mixing it with such formal and dated, almost Shakespearean expressions was also very interesting. It gave the impression of Alex being much older than 15 and that he had the potential to be anything he wanted, but he chose to be that and do those things, and that is kind of the point of the book, that goodness is a choice.
But the amount of violence described here is just unbelievable, especially in Part 1. The book makes you so uncomfortable because it speaks of everything you don’t want to think about or even know exists out there. Stealing, beating, raping, child molesting, taking away your free will, etc., etc; practically any bad thing you can think of is approached in this book.
For all that and more I cannot mention because I am still baffled and it was quite a ride, the 5 stars are well deserved. Even though I felt physically sick while reading it, or because of it, the fact is this book is unique when it comes to making the reader feel.
As for the ending, I can understand why people, including Burgess, are not so keen on the last chapter and how it feels off character. I don’t know how long occurred between the end of chapter 6 and beginning of 7, but the changes are just too sudden. (view spoiler)
This edition also includes Notes explaining certain phrases found in the book; the full Nadsat glossary; a prologue written for Burgess’s musical stage version for A Clockwork Orange, depicting Alex and his girlfriend as Adam and Eve; an epilogue which is a dialogue between Alex and an author figure named AB written for newspaper publication before the stage version came out as a book; essays articles and reviews and more. It’s a work for true fans of ACO.
I must admit I did not read much after the play but all in all, it was quite a ride. The book sure has the power to make you think about many things. There isn’t much more I can say because it is a book that needs to be savoured, words don’t do it justice. So…
What’s it going to be then, eh?
Read from February 10 to 13, 2015