“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.

Quotes from ‘The Catcher in the Rye’

October 11, 2007

I liked the tone of J. D. Salinger‘s book a lot: hilarious but full of insightful comments throughout. Holden Caulfield vividly reflects the teenage turmoil we’ve all been [being?] through. On par with George Carlin’s shows, the novel is a good example of using ‘bad’ language for a noble purpose. Thumbs up!

  • People never notice anything.
  • People never believe you.
  • That’s the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty, even if they’re not much to look at, or even if they’re sort of stupid, you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are.
  • That’s the whole trouble. When you’re feeling very depressed, you can’t even think.
  • People never give your message to anybody.
  • I’m psychic.
  • I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you’re dead? Nobody.
  • People are mostly hot to have a discussion when you’re not.
  • It’s hopeless, anyway. If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn’t rub out even half the “Fuck you” signs in the world. It’s impossible.
  • You can’t ever find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any.
  • She‘s a madman sometimes.
  • I mean how do you know what you’re going to do till you do it? The answer is, you don’t. I think I am, but how do I know?
  • Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.

Some interesting (approximate) stats about the text itself:

  • the word ‘bastard’ appears 62 times.
  • the word ‘crazy’ appears 77 times.
  • the word ‘kill’ and its other forms appear 64 times.
  • the word ‘hell’ appears 281 times in the book!
  • the word ‘madman’ appears 16 times.
  • the word ‘crap’ appears 27 times.
  • the word ‘goddam’ appears 245 times!
  • and the word ‘damn’ another 125 times (‘darn’ 4 times)