Want to read with me? Follow this link to view the list and pick a book (or a few!) to read along with me. I'd love for this project to be collaborative, and will post anyone's thoughts beside my own.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

My life's sentences.

Sorry to post twice -- if I'd seen this article a few minutes sooner I'd have posted them together, but ah well. C'est la vie. (Hagh - I just typed C'est la view. Nope! Wrong.)

This is also from the NY Times, the Sunday Review section. It's an opinion piece by Jhumpa Lahiri, author of Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth, among others. Also one of my friend Dennis (who happens to be an excellent writer himself!)'s favorite authors! (Side note: do you find yourself stymied by sentences like the one I just constructed, too? I never know how to insert an appositive (which, by the way, I just had to look up in a grammar glossary so DON'T FEEL BAD if you didn't know what it meant, either. I just knew it started with an "a". It's a noun phrase used to describe something that means the same thing -- ex: Bob, my aunt's husband, went fishing.) Anyway, I never know where to put the appositive or where to put the apostrophe! I have solved this problem by DEFYING the laws of grammar and creating my own structure. What would Laura, my roommate, the linguist, (APPOSITIVE times TWO! unintentional!) have to say about this?

This piece was just beautifully constructed.


I love where she says, of sentences: "They can be formal or casual. They can be tall or short or fat or thin. They can obey the rules or break them. But they need to contain a charge. A live current, which shocks and illuminates."

I also love that her article directly reflects what she's saying about sentences. (If that makes any sense. It did when I thought it, but then again I've only been up for an hour or so and have had just shy of one cup of coffee.)

Also, I found the way she describes her relationship with her own books intriguing and perhaps a bit sad: "Even printed, on pages that are bound, sentences remain unsettled organisms. Years later, I can always reach out to smooth a stray hair. And yet, at a certain point, I must walk away, trusting them to do their work...This is why I avoid reading the books I've written. Why, when I must, I approach the book as a stranger, and pretend the sentences were written by someone else."

I like this last line because the structure reminds me of the last part of William Cullen Bryant's poem, "Thanatopsis", which I read at my grandmother's funeral:

"So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams."

For some reason the structure of "when I must, I approach the book as a stranger" reminds me of "thou go not, like the quarry-slave..but like one who wraps the drapery...about him"."

Happy Sunday! Hope you're sleeping in, drinking coffee or tea or whatever your poison may be, and enjoying the slower pace of a week-end day.

Your brain on fiction.

Just came across this article in the NY Times. Yes, Montag, there is something there!


I love this:

"Individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective. This relationship persisted even after the researchers accounted for the possibility that more empathetic individuals might prefer reading novels."

Saturday, March 17, 2012

This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Spoiler Alert: Plot Summary
Hitchhiker's is a story of an earthling, a Betelgeusian, another Betelgeusian, another earthling, a manically depressed robot, and some mice. It starts with the end of the Earth. (A very good place to start, don't you think?) And ends with a departure from the planet Magrathea and a stop at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. There are some very funny bits in the middle (Vogons reading poetry, Infinite Improbability drives, random coincidences that are not in fact random at all, feats of daring and acts of stupidity, jokes galore, and of course, a mildly climactic battle that almost ends in the death of our main characters (Arthur Dent - the first earthling, Ford Prefect - the first Betelgeusian, Zaphod Beeblebrox - the second Betelgeusian, and Trillian (aka Tricia McMillan) the second earthling)). They are saved, in a delightfully ironic twist, by Marvin (the depressed robot) and his unbearable melancholy. This book is one hell of a ride and a barrel of laughs.
Spoiler Over: Continue Here

So, I feel a little guilty because as I realized at the end that the book felt a bit unfinished and told Laura, she pointed out that it is, in fact, part of a trilogy (which ironically, in fact contains FIVE books). Whoops! But, to be fair, my list only contains the first one, so while I most emphatically promise to read the rest of the "trilogy" later in life, I will only be discussing the first one for now.

Not to sound like a broken record, but again - if you haven't read HHGTTG (apparently that is the "fan" abbreviation), stop reading my post NOW and go read it. It's only 200 pages and it's TOO funny. You'll fall off your chair it's so funny (read: little girl with a British accent). If you're not inclined (though I HIGHLY SUGGESTED IT and you're clearly just choosing to ignore me) or if you've already read it, feel free to proceed. Alternatively, if you're one of those people who doesn't mind reading all the good parts of a book before reading it themselves, you may also proceed.

Apologies in advance if this gets long (I really am trying to be attentive to length!) but here are my favorite moments:

-The book starts off (before the end of the Earth) with Arthur's house about to get knocked down to build a bypass. When he complains that he had no idea that it was happening, the contractor responds with the following:
"But the plans were on display..."
"On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."
"That's the display department."
"With a flashlight."
"Ah, well, the lights had probably gone."
"So had the stairs."
"But look, you found the notice, didn't you?"
"Yes, yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of the Leopard."
--This is one of several places in my book where I've simply written: "haghahgahgahgahgahgahghaga."

-Ford Prefect accidentally gets stuck on Earth for 15 years, and his cover is that he's an "out of work actor". Amazing.

-Apparently, Ford Prefect got drunk quite often to deal with the boredom of being stuck on Earth:
"Thereafter, staggering semiparalytic down the night streets, he would often ask passing policemen if they knew the way to Betelgeuse. The policemen would usually say something like, "Don't you think it's about time you went off home, sir?"
to which Ford would apparently respond, "I'm trying to, baby, I'm trying to."
--Next time I go out drinking I want to hobble down the streets of DC and ask strangers for directions to Betelgeuse. (Only the nice looking strangers, of course, Mom. I wouldn't dream of asking crazy strangers for directions to Betelgeuse!)

-Ford Prefect, as he is trying to steal Arthur away to explain that he is in fact an alien and the Earth is about to explode, convinces the contractor trying to knock down Arthur's house that he should lie down in front of the bulldozer in the mud to keep it from knocking down the house. He promises that when he and Arthur get back from the pub, they'll take a shift for the contractor as a trade. He adds, "And no sneaky knocking Mr. Dent's house down while he's away, all right?"
--This is Hilarious. The description of the contractor trying to logic out whether what he's doing is stupid or not is amazing, and Ford's logic is delightfully idiotic.

-Ford tries to break it to Arthur that he's an alien (and you realize Arthur's not all that bright)
Ford: "How would you react if I said that I'm not from Guildford after all, but from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse?"
Arthur: "I don't know. Why, do you think it's the sort of thing you're likely to say?"
--heh. heh.

-The Hitchhiker's Guide itself resembles a Nook or a Kindle; which is pretty impressive considering that this book was published in 1979, well before a computer that wasn't the size of a small house existed, let alone something as sophisticated as a digital book. Nice forethought, Mr. Adams!

-Ford consoles Arthur, because he thinks Arthur is worried about the end of the Earth (about which Ford has just informed him)
"What's that sound?"
"Don't worry, they haven't started yet."
"Thank God for that."
"It's probably just your house being knocked down."
--Hagh. I guess in the scheme of things it really doesn't matter, but I'd be upset if I were Arthur! Did anyone get Suzy?!

-Ford and Arthur are whisked up into a Vogon spaceship just before the Earth is demolished
Arthur: "If I asked you where the hell we were, would I regret it?"
Ford: "We're safe. We're in a small galley cabin in one of the spaceships of the Vogon Constructor Fleet."
Arthur: "Ah, this is obviously some strange usage of the word safe that I wasn't previously aware of."

-The Hitchhiker's Guide's entry on the Earth is one word: "Harmless." When Ford works on the entry for 15 years, it is changed. To "Mostly harmless."
--Are we, though? Certainly not harmless to each other.

-Adams' description of Vogon poetry (a form of torture MOST vicious):
"During a recitation of their Poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent of his poem "Ode to a Small Lump of Green Putty I Found in My Armpit One Midsummer Morning" four of his audience died of internal hemorrhaging, and the President of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one of his own legs off. Grunthos is reported to have been "disappointed" by the poem's reception."
--I think many people would agree that certain types of poetry readings are, indeed, a most vile form of torture.

-Arthur describes the wonders of Earth to Marvin, the manically depressed robot:
Arthur: "I came from a planet called Earth, you know."
Marvin: "I know, you keep going on about it. It sounds awful."
Arthur: "Ah no, it was a beautiful place."
Marvin: "Did it have oceans?"
Arthur: Oh yes, great wide rolling blue oceans..."
Marvin: "Can't bear oceans."
--A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. Marvin is my favorite character. Ford's a laugh and a half, but Marvin cracks me UP. Also, he is apparently voiced by Alan Rickman in the movie (which I've heard mixed things about generally) which I find to be perfectly delightful.

-Part of the plot in this book (which I didn't bother to summarize in great detail because (a) my blogs have gotten long, (2) it's rather complicated, and (d) in case you didn't get the hint, I really want you to read this one YOURSELF because it's great!) involves finding the answer to the question, "What is the meaning of life?" When after several billion years, the computer provides the answer, it is... DUH DUH DUh.... 42.
The mice (who are in fact in control - again - it's complicated) try to come up with several questions (secondary questions for "What is the meaning of life") which could reasonably have this answer. Here are a few they came up with:
"What's yellow and dangerous?"
"What do you get if you multiply six by seven?"
"How many roads must a man walk down?
--Other thoughts, for ways to ask the ultimate question for which the answer is 42? How many lovers should we have? (ACK! too many) How many careers? (too many!) How many meaningful moments? (too few!) Tricky, isn't it?

-When Ford and the others are unexpectedly shot at by some policemen on the planet Magrathea and the two policemen suddenly stop shooting, Ford offers to go check to see what's up.
Ford: "Right, I'm going to have a look."
Ford: "Is no one going to say, No, you can't possibly, let me go instead?
Everyone shakes their heads.
Ford: "Oh well."

-Conversation between Ford and Marvin the robot:
Ford: "How are you, metalman?"
Marvin: "Very depressed."
Ford: "What's up?"
Marvin: "I don't know. I've never been there."
--heh heh heh heh heh.

-Marvin inadvertently saves the crew by talking to the policemen's ship (to which they are electronically connected for power). He "shared his view of the Universe", and in response, according to Marvin, the ship committed suicide.

-Slartibartfast, the only Magrathean we meet (the rest are supposedly in deep sleep until the end of the Galaxy's recession -- boy wouldn't it be nice to sleep through this one? but then again, we'd miss everything good that's happening!!) is a planet designer. (Magrathea, I forgot to mention, was built to design high-end, custom planets and sell them to the highest bidder.) Slartibartfast suggests that instead of looking for the ultimate question or the meaning of life, we just keep occupied.
"Look at me: I design coastlines. I got an award for Norway."
--Adorable. I'm sure plenty of people would be happy to have a job designing coastlines. In fact, it probably is someone's job. The beach does have to be cared for from an environmental and ecological perspective. Awards for coastline designers! Hooray!

-Slartibartfast also says, "Science has achieved some wonderful things, of course, but I'd far rather be happy than right any day."
This reminds me of the line that Elwood P. Dowd says in "Harvey": "My mother used to say to me, 'Elwood, in this world you must be oh-so clever, or oh-so pleasant.' For years I was clever. I'd recommend pleasant."

On that note, I'm back to the world of Ayn Rand for an appointment with an aspiring architect. Do you appreciate my amazing alliteration?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Two is better than one!

Diana did a read-along for this one. Here are some of her thoughts:

"amazing book. great blog! there are also so many things that i love about this book. it's not even as graphic or squalid as i remember some of his short stories being, but its scenes and ideas have so much depth. it's hard to believe that he wrote this in 1953, not long at all after movies had begun to be made, and there probably weren't That many people who had a tv set in their house, but he saw SO far into the future. it's amazing. the age of cinema and information overload wasn't anywhere near as developed as it is today, but he saw the possible ramifications. he envisioned the 4-wall tv screen, and i love that you can read that as a metaphor for all that inanity and nothingness taking over mildred, and slowly enveloping her. and i just LOVE the ending scene. i don't think i grasped it very well when i first read the book, but when i was reading the final scene, where the jets appear at 5,000 miles at hour and demolish the entire city, and the men are thrown to the ground, grasping at the dirt, it was just so powerful and fantastic. they had escaped it because they disavowed society and had begun a return to nature, and i felt so distinctly the parallels to our current idiotic wars, ones born out of ignorance. it's such a great book.

i enjoyed my read-along so much i'm going to do it again. i'm going to trade in my one precious library book for the hitchhiker's guide. i think i May have read it before, but if i did i certainly don't remember it very well."

Friday, March 9, 2012

Burn all, burn everything. Fire is bright and fire is clean.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Spoiler Alert: Plot Summary
Fahrenheit 451 follows Guy Montag, a "fireman", through a journey of self-discovery, revolution against society, and acceptance as a leader of rebels. In Montag's world, the "firemen" are responsible for answering alarms raised about people who are secretly hiding books. Books are anathema to society, and as the book starts, Montag feels the rightness of this and enjoys his job. His mind starts to change when he meets a new young neighbor, Clarisse, who takes pleasure in all the things society has ceased to celebrate, and after his wife, Mildred, attempts suicide because of the pervasive emptiness around and inside her. Montag starts building a secret stash of books, and after Clarisse disappears and Montag is forced to burn a woman in her library because she refuses to leave her books, Montag forces Mildred to start reading the books with him. He reconnects with an old man, Faber, who had once spoken to him in a park about books. They hatch a plan to plant books in firemen's homes and then raise the alarm to circumvent the system, but before they are able to put their plan in action, Montag is found out, and his wife raises the alarm to burn their house. The Captain, Beatty, forces Montag to personally burn his house and books, but as Montag's communication with Faber is revealed and the Captain promises to go after Faber as well, Montag sets the Captain on fire and escapes with a handful of the remaining books. He escapes "The Mechanical Hound" with Faber's help and makes it to the river. He finds his way to an old railroad track that Faber suggested, and stumbles upon a few comrades who accept him into their company. They each are responsible for holding a book or series of books in their head, and Montag is able to offer them "The Book of Ecclesiastes" from the Old Testament. They hope to remember enough to be of use at some point, and that perhaps if enough is remembered, the world can avoid its previous mistakes. The same night that Montag joins them, the cities around them are bombed in the war that has just begun. Nothing remains - the cities are leveled - and Montag leads them forward into the woods, thinking of what words from Ecclesiastes can be of use to them as they learn to move on.
Spoiler Over: Continue Here

Wow. I feel as completely emotionally fulfilled and intrigued and curious from this novel as I did empty and frustrated and hollow from A Clockwork Orange. I had never read any Bradbury, and after reading this one, I truly feel that I've just had the rare opportunity of enjoying a brilliantly written classic novel.

From the moment I read the first line - "It was a pleasure to burn" - I was hooked, and the rest of this brief book had the same arresting, intense power. I can't possibly share all the lines I loved in this book - the lyricism was reminiscent of a briefer version of Steinbeck's descriptions in East of Eden - but I'll share a few of the highlights. Before I start, though, if you haven't read this, stop reading this post immediately and pick up a copy of the book. Its 158 pages are worth every single word.

Here are my favorite scenes:

--Montag describing the first fire at the beginning of the book:
"Montag grinned the fierce grin of all men singed and driven back by flame."
"Later, going to sleep, he would feel the fiery smile still gripped by his face muscles, in the dark."
--Bradbury's images are unparalleled - I was so pulled into the story that I felt like I could almost reach out and touch Montag and smell the kerosene on him.

--Montag meets Clarisse:
"The autumn leaves blew over the moonlit pavement in such a way as to make the girl who was moving there seem fixed to a sliding walk, letting the motion of the wind and the leaves carry her forward. Her head was half bent to watch her shoes stir the circling leaves. Her face was slender and milk-white, and in it was a kind of gentle hunger that touched over everything with tireless curiosity. It was a look, almost, of pale surprise; the dark eyes were so fixed to the world that no move escaped them. Her dress was white and it whispered."
--This reminds me of when Dumbledore first appears on Privet Drive; the magic, the mystery, and the intense spark his presence evokes.

--Montag's reflection on meeting Clarisse:
"Impossible; for how many people did you know that refracted your own light to you?
--I can name only a few. Can you?

--Mildred's response to Montag when he asks about her suicide attempt:
"You took all the pills in your bottle last night."
"Oh, I wouldn't do that. Never in a billion years."
--The scene where Montag discovers Mildred is so brilliantly developed that I didn't catch what was happening just until the moment he picked up the phone to call for help. Her inability to even access that moment of despair is so telling of the societal acceptance of the status quo and departure from feelings of any kind.

--Clarisse rubs the dandelion under Montag's chin to see if he's in love:
This moment was probably my favorite in the book. She tells Montag he's not in love, and he's angry, but you know she's right. I could just see the smeary yellow on his chin and the look of indignation in his eye.

--Rules for Firemen:
(1) Answer the alarm quickly.
(2) Start the fire swiftly.
(3) Burn everything.
(4) Report back to firehouse immediately.
(5) Stand alert for other Alarms.
--These reminded me of the list of rules for life that Gatsby creates for himself.

--Montag's response when they burn the woman with her library:
"She made the empty rooms roar with accusation and shake down a fine dust of guilt that was sucked in their nostrils as they plunged about. It was neither cricket nor correct."
Captain Beatty flicks his fingers to spark the kerosene, but it's too late - "The woman on the porch reached out with contempt to them all, and struck the kitchen match against the railing."
--Another favorite moment; again, I felt the passionate energy behind this confrontation, and the lyricism brought me to within inches of the action itself.

--Montag's change of heart:
"There must be something in books, things we can't imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there."
--There is something there, Montag. I'm writing this blog because there is something there.

--Mildred tries to fix Montag's pillow and discovers the book with the tips of her fingers:
--This is a fantastic scene. Montag stays home sick because he can't handle the fact that they burned the woman in her library, and Captain Beatty comes to check in on him. He's lecturing him about how all firemen go through this phase, this moment of uncertainty, but they pass through it, and the whole time it's happening, Montag is sitting on his bed and Mildred is trying to fix Montag's pillow, but Montag is hiding a book there, and you hear them fighting and then Mildred's fingers feel the outline of the book and just f r e e z e.

--Montag drowns out Mildred's "family":
"He opened the book to read over Mildred's laughter."
--I love the idea of "reading over" something. Reading is silent, so there's a brilliant irony to the phrase, but I can't count the number of times I've tried to read over something annoying or loud.

--Faber's opinion on why books matter:
"Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us."
"The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies."
-Spot on. Spot on, Bradbury.

Montag: "My wife says books aren't 'real'.
Faber: "Thank God for that. You can shut them, say, 'Hold on a moment.' You play God to it."
--This is so apt. When I was reading The Hunger Games a few weeks ago, I was constantly taking a moment to pull back, to "Play God", to the books, sometimes to cry, sometimes to think, sometimes just to reel in my emotions and feel the immensity of the instant. This is absolutely hands down my favorite thing about books versus movies.

--Faber reads to Montag:
"Would you like me to read? I'll read so you can remember. I go to bed only five hours a night. Nothing to do. So if you like, I'll read you to sleep nights. They say you retain knowledge even when you're sleeping, if someone whispers it in your ear."
Montag: "Yes."
--Faber, will you read to me?

--Mrs. Phelps, on children:
"You heave them into the 'parlor' and turn the switch. It's like washing clothes; stuff laundry in and slam the lid."
-Amazing. Who knew it was so simple? Done and done!

--Montag as he begins his escape:
"The air over and above the vast concrete river trembled with the warmth of Montag's body alone; it was incredible how he felt his temperature could cause the whole immediate world to vibrate."
-Incredible writing.

--Montag meets the rebels:
"Montag. Walk carefully. Guard your health. If anything should happen to Harris, you are the Book of Ecclesiastes. See how important you've become in the last minute!"
-How many books am I responsible for? I should keep an eye on my health, too, eh?

--The rebels' philosophy:
"They weren't at all certain that the things they carried in their heads might make every future dawn glow with a purer light, they were sure of nothing save that the books were on file behind their quiet eyes."
-I like that Montag's discovery of the rebels isn't a panacea, but a step in the right direction.

--Granger's advice from his grandfather:
"Stuff your eyes with wonder. Live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds."
-This seems a bit drastic (and unrealistic) but I like the idea of it.

--Granger, on the importance of their work:
"We're going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week and the next month and the next year. And when they ask us what we're doing, you can say, We're remembering. That's where we'll win out in the long run. And some day we'll remember so much that we'll build the biggest goddam steamshovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in and cover it up."
-I like the idea that if enough people remember the mistakes of our past, we can eradicate one so enormous as war. Improbable? Yes. Impractical? Absolutely. Worth fighting for? I've never been surer.

I'll leave you with these parting words from Montag, from when he's pondering the rebels' return to the world:
"A lot of it will be wrong, but just enough of it will be right."
"I'll hold onto the world tight some day. I've got one finger on it now; that's a beginning."

Onwards to more science fiction and a comical romp through the cosmic universe.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Where are my stinking traitorous droogs?

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Spoiler Alert: Plot Summary

A Clockwork Orange is a story about violence, the power of the government, reform and its costs and benefits, and life as a teenage boy. When you may or may not be a sociopath.

Told in 3 parts:

1st part - Alex (age 15) out and about at night with friends in a dystopic futuristic world, wreaking havoc, literally raping and pillaging, friends turn on him, he gets arrested after he kills a cat lady.

2nd part: - in jail (for 2 years), makes some friends, beats a fellow inmate to death over a spat about sleeping arrangements, gets chosen to be "reformed" with a creepy new visual torture/forced illness at the sight of violence technique, shown off to government hotshots as a success.

3rd part - released from the 2-week "reform" program back into the world, he tries to literally "go home again", is rebuffed, gets beaten up by an old friend who's a cop now as well as a bunch of very old men with canes, gets taken in by the same man who he brutally beat earlier on (and whose wife he raped and beat) but the man doesn't recognize him because Alex had been wearing a mask, that man tries to use Alex as a revolutionary puppet, Alex ends up trying to kill himself, is used as a "cautionary tale" against the new reform program, regains the ability to be violent, gets a new crew, but his heart isn't in the violence, and he thinks (after bumping into one of his old buddies who's married and "normal" now) maybe he's growing up and that young boys just go through that period of violence.

Spoiler Over: Continue Here

The book is about half Burgess's made-up language, which is ostensibly teenage slang. Here's a sampling:

Alex's Slang:
droogs - friends (I think), or buddies, or just 'guys'
devotchkas - young ladies/girls
glazzies - eyes
viddy - to see
rot - mouth
malenky - a little bit
poogly - scared
razrez - to tear up
rookers - arms
zoobies - teeth
appy polly loggies - apologies
groodies - breasts
cancers - cigarettes
slooshy - to hear
skorry - quick/fast
millicents - police
ultra-violence - rape
the old Luna - the moon
litso - face
platties - pants
otchkies - eye-glasses
klootch - key
gulliver - head
pee and em - father and mother
rabbit - to work/a job
toofles - socks (or possibly slippers, not sure)
domy - house
malchick - man
smeck - laugh
horrorshow - not entirely sure, but I think it's, sort of like "really" or "very"/good
govoreet - to speak
nadsat - teenager
lomtick - slice
nochy - night
britva - knife
oddy knocky - own, as in "all on my oddy knocky - alone"
tolchock - to punch
charlie - priest/pastor
zasnoot - to sleep
bezoomny - upset/angry
moloko and sakar - milk and sugar
nogas - feet
peet - to drink
eemyas - names
krovvy - blood

So...truth? I hated this book. And yes Grandma, I really do mean Hated with a capital H. I get that it was supposed to be a satire and this probing philosophical journey, but guess what? I did not enjoy the journey. What I did enjoy was the language. So that is what I will mainly be discussing here.

Also, word to the wise - I'm not one to tell people to censor books for your children, but this book has a LOT of really dirty and dark and just plain f'ed up stuff in it. So think about reading the first chapter before letting your child read it or assigning it to your students. Mmkay?

-discuss the cavalier attitude toward violence -- I wrote this note to myself. Again, I suppose it's part of the SATIRE but maybe I just don't GET satire because it just seemed like a LOT OF VIOLENCE. Seriously, Alex rapes like 5 women just in the part of the novel THAT WE READ. and there are super-graphic descriptions of him beating up old people, knocking their teeth out, their blood flowing everywhere, etc. etc. I actually read it as fast as possible because (and everyone I spoke to can attest to this) I hated the experience of reading it. I found it very unpleasant, and I really didn't feel like the violence WENT somewhere. If it was guiding me toward some larger truth, then you MISSED THE MARK, Burgess.

That said, here are a few of my favorite sentences. Feel free to use the slang guide to decipher them:

-"Goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man."
-"a malenky bit poogly"
-"Oh, it was gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh. The trombones crunched redgold under my bed, and behind my gulliver the trumpets three-wise silverflamed, and there by the door the timps rolling through my guts and out again crunched like candy thunder." --Alex loses the ability to enjoy music when he is "conditioned" in the reform. I was ALMOST sad for a second, and then I was like, OH RIGHT. You're a SOCIOPATH. so i don't care.
-"As I slooshied, my glazzies tight shut to shut in the bliss that was better than any synthemesc Bog or God, I knew such lovely pictures."
-"The next morning I woke up at oh eight oh oh hours, my brothers, and as I still felt shagged and fagged and fashed and bashed and my glazzies were stuck together real horrorshow with sleepglue..."
-"The night belonged to me and my droogs and all the rest of the nadsats, and the starry bourgeois lurked indoors drinking in the gloopy worldcasts, but the day was for the starry ones, and there always seemed to be more rozzes or millicents about during the day, too."
-"When the last one had slouched out, his rookers hanging like an ape and the one warder left giving him a fair loud tolchock on the back of the gulliver, and when I had turned off the stereo, the charlie came up to me, puffing away at a cancer, still in his starry bogman's platties, all lacy and white like a devotchka's."
-"Also there was Wall, who had only one glazzy, and he was tearing bits of his toe-nails off in honour of Sunday."
-"It was the next day, brothers, and I had truly done my best morning and afternoon to play it their way and sit like a horrorshow smiling co-operative malchick in the chair of torture while they flashed nasty bits of ultra-violence on the screen, my glazzies clipped open to viddy all, my plott and rookers and nogas fixed to the chair so I could not get away."
-Alex returns to his parents' house after being released from prison. They have a lodger now, who lives in Alex's room, and Alex is bullied out of the house. He finds out all of his things have been sold to raise money to care for the cats of the woman he killed.

The only redeeming thing (for me - with respect for you and yours if you enjoy this novel) was the language. I found it fascinating that I was able to decipher as many words as I was, given that there was no glossary or discussion of what the words meant. Interesting from a linguistic perspective.

I really think this one became a classic because of the whole "I'm SO brilliant because I really GOT A Clockwork Orange" aesthetic, just like everyone really LOVES Ulysses and "really" understands it.

I'm off to brush my zoobies and zasnoot all on my oddy knocky. Onwards to flames, fiction, and Fahrenheit 451.