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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.

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