Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Audiobook Review: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (Adult)

Author: Anthony Burgess
Genres: Classics, Science Fiction, Dystopian
Format: Audiobook (Amazon | Audible)
Narrator: Tom Hollander (Audible)
Length: 7 hours & 45 minutes

n this 1962 classic, a novelistic exploration of modern crime and punishment, Alex is the 15-year-old leader of his gang of "droogs" thriving in the ultraviolent future as prophetically imagined by Burgess. Speaking a bizarre Russian-derived slang, Alex and his friends freely pillage and slash their way across a nightmarish urban landscape until Alex is captured by the judicial arm of the state. He then becomes their prized guinea pig in a scientific program to completely "redeem" him for society. If we had the power of absolute criminal reform, what, the novel asks, would this mean for our ideals of freedom and society?

This edition reinstates the final chapter missing from Kubrick's film and , in which Alex is on the verge of starting a family as he reflects on--and completely rejects--his adolescent nastiness. It also includes Burgess's introduction "A Clockwork Orange Resucked."

FIRST IMPRESSION:: I wish I would've read it in high school. But I guess with all the violence and other unlawful activities, I can understand why I didn't. That said, I still wish it was so. I found it this book to be thought-provoking, enjoyable read.
STORY:: Despite the fact that he was a horrible human being, I liked Alex. I am sure he's a prime example of a unreliable narrator, because I did come To sympathize with him a little bit more than I am comfortable with. He was only 15 when all the craziness was going on. And even though he saw himself as the de-facto leader of his group, he was completely caught up in the mob mentality of his peer group.

Consequences were so far from his mind because the police basically gave free reign the droogs at night and told everyone else to say home. I won't say he was completely a product of his environment, because everyone has free will, but it certainly didn't help. 

I'm just going to jump to the 21st chapter controversy, since I have a lot to say about it. While I would have preferred not being told in the beginning of the book that Alex would basically grow up/grow out of his ultra-violent ways, I'm still glad I knew. 

I find it pretty disgusting that someone chose to edit out the moral truth for the American public. Not only does it change the novel impact completely, it says a lot about that book publishers perception of the American public, which was nothing good. 

To think that the book wouldn't have sold unless it glorified violence is awful. Not only that, it makes the novel exceptionally dark, Alex out to be a irredeemable human being and takes away from the readers' experience. You don't get a chance to draw your own conclusions about the book, it just hands you one. 

It's pretty laughable. The publishers obviously didn't even get the point of the book. Free will. Alex was violent because he chose to be violent. The demonstrators fighting the government were against mentally neutering the violent offenders because it was inhuman. The prison's chaplain was was against Ludovico's Technique because he felt that the choice not to do evil is better than being made to not do evil.

Most importantly, Alex's natural evolution is cut out. When he learns that the treatment has been reversed, of course his natural response it's going to be like, "Fuck yeah! Fuck you mom and dad, fuck you protesters, fuck you jailers and fuck you government." 

He felt victimized by every single one. Not only that, wouldn't you try out being an asshole immediately after the reversal treatment in the hospital to make sure you could? This was his first chance to address everyone and everything that basically he felt drove him to commit suicide! Of course he was angry. Who wouldn't be?

But when he leaves the hospital and tries to go back to being a droog again, he's unfulfilled. He learns that important, cruel lesson we all learn at some point; that you can't go back. Most commonly felt when you first return to your childhood room/town after your freshman year of college. Nothing has changed, but everything has changed, mostly because you're not the same person. 

Too much has happened for Alex to go back. He finally faced consequences for the things he'd done before. He'd learned the value of money after earning it, and not stealing it. He gained remorse  from having violent things done to him and being forced to feel empathy. All of these things led Alex to want something new. He chose differently. He proved the chaplains point. I consider Alex to have been a violent person that was not reformed, but who had lost the will to do violent things. Alex even says, "I know the difference between right and wrong, I choose to do wrong." Until he doesn't and that's the point!

Had I only read the American version of the book, I would have not been able to draw this conclusion. And that's a sad thing. To have the novel just come to an unnatural end right after the hospital scene would have been sad and did me a disservice. It would have been like saying, "your too stupid to understand this ending." 

It completely changes the book's meaning by making its central theme of the freedom of choice null and void. It's got to be one of the primary reasons why A Clockwork Orange keeps ending up in American banned book lists. And then, which I find most hilarious, could give people the wrong and negative impression of Burgess and his values, and thus make them less likely to buy any of this other books. The publishers' choice probably cost American retailers  future sales of Burgess's books, even to this day since edited copies still exist. Whoops.

RECOMMENDED FOR:: People who enjoy books that challenge your morals and ethics. Book clubs definitely should give it a go.

A Clockwork Orange    A Clockwork Orange

I am not going to lie. I cringed when I learned that this is the Book-of-the-Month for book club. I've tried reading it before, and all of the slang drove me insane. I knew without a doubt that the only way I would survive this book this time around, was to do the audiobook. 

And it was a most advantageous idea, oh my brothers, because I love the narrator, Tom Hollander. He is a fabulous actor, who I first had the chance to pleasure to viddie as the cooky Mr. Collins in Pride & Prejudice. Seeing that he was the narrator cemented my decision that an audiobook was the proper format this go round. 

Which, in fact, turned out to be my saving grace. He did a brilliant job narrating this story -- so much so that I actually understood and enjoyed it. 

“Then, brothers, it came. Oh, bliss, bliss and heaven. I lay all nagoy to the ceiling, my gulliver on my rookers on the pillow, glazzies closed, rot open in bliss, slooshying the sluice of lovely sounds. Oh, it was gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh.”― Alex

“I am everyone's friend,'I said.'Except to my enemies.” 

― Alex

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