“A Clockwork Orange”, by Anthony Burgess

July 6, 2008

After reading 1984 nearly a year ago, I spent good hours sifting through the Google search results for “dystopia novels”. I think that’s how I got to this one, but I couldn’t be sure. Books often spend months at a time on my to-read list, and (un?)luckily I don’t keep track of who recommended what.

With its weird Russian-influenced Nadsat English, A Clockwork Orange became interesting pretty quickly. Here’s a sample paragraph:

“They viddied us just as we viddied them, and there was like a very quit kind of watching each other now. This would be real, this would be proper, this would be the nozh, the oozy, the britva, not just fisties and boots. Billyboy and his droogs stopped what they were doing, which was just getting ready to perform something on a weepy young devotchka they had there, not more than ten, she creeching away but with her platties still on.”

As you can see, even my not-enough-to-speak knowledge of Russian helped make this a lot of fun. It took me nearly half the audio book to figure out that “horrorshow” meant “хорошо” and not “horror show”. (That pun is actually used in the book, too.)

In the end, it turned out to be more of a coming-of-age story than an earnest dystopia. (Perhaps that’s why the ending caught me off-guard.) But if you asked me what other book I could compare it with, I wouldn’t have an answer, and this is enough to make it a great read.

  • Goodness comes from within, 6655321. Goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man.
  • What does God want? Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness? Is a man who chooses the bad perhaps in some ways better than a man who has the good imposed upon him?
  • It’s funny how the colours of the like real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen.
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Nineteen Minutes

February 10, 2008

What could possibly make a person walk into a school with four guns and kill ten people? You’ll give a different answer after reading this book.

I could hardly put it out of my mind after the first sentence, and probably for a lot of time after the last one. I loved the way Jodi Picoult gets inside the minds of the characters, without judging them. I also loved the way the book is structured: starting with the incident and then, like a movie, alternating between moments of time before and after. These clear-cut scenes are interspersed with short insights from Peter, which carry the most emotional charge (To anyone who cares…). If you are like me and find it hard to remember the characters’ names initially, you might find this exposition technique somewhat confusing, but I bet you’ll appreciate it in the end.

Overall this is one of the best novels I’ve read. I’m definitely going to look for more books by the author. If I could change one thing about this one though, I would cut in half the amount of text dedicated to the courtroom.

Some ideas that this book touches upon:

  • High school, like any society, is divided into two categories of people: the cool and popular (unhappy because they have to wear a mask all the time), and the uncool and unpopular (unhappy because they are lonely etc.)
  • Some people see suicide as an extreme communication device.
  • Life/society/school/democracy sucks, but it’s the best thing we’ve got so far.
  • When we’re sitting in front of the TV, we appreciate the fact that the media is able to keep us informed, but we rarely think of how the same media intrudes in the lives of those we see on the screen.
  • The fear of losing control; the desire to live within predictability, and what happens when that balance is lost.
  • What happens when someone we love does something we would never have expected (Peter — Lacy and Lewis; Josie — Alex).
  • There is no clearly-defined line between childhood and adulthood, yet the rights we give a person and the way we judge them are a function of biological age.
  • How the same thing carries different meanings to different people.
  • Do you still want the truth if it hurts?
  • Nothing we do is guaranteed to be good or bad in the long run.
  • Ultimately, revenge doesn’t change anything.
  • Life goes on. The human capacity to get over things is sometimes astounding.

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