Tonawanda News


February 27, 2012

BOOK NOOK CLASSICS: All you droogs should get to rabbiting on ‘Clockwork’

“A Clockwork Orange” is one of those rare combinations where both the book and movie adaptation seem to have an equal amount of popularity.

The film, directed by Stanley Kubrick, is both controversial and classic. Most would consider it among the director’s best.

Yet the novel upon which it is based hasn’t been lost in all of the movie’s praise — at least not to the degree of most books-turned-films. Take Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” for example: an adaptation so highly regarded, the novel it stemmed from is left behind, like a footnote. A large number of films are created this way — steal a book’s ideas, and leave the carcass of the novel in its wake.

Not Anthony Burgess’ “A Clockwork Orange.” A big part of the novel’s staying power is one of the most unique uses of language found in English literature.  

 Narrated through the eyes of Alex, a 15-year-old teen who regards the reader as “brother,” “A Clockwork Orange” is written in the made-up, yet brilliantly thought out slang of Nadsat.

In short, the slang is based in contemporary English, but with a number of commonly used terms exchanged for some fun, new variations. Friends are now “droogs” (a straight translation into Russian,) working is known as “rabbiting” (from the Russian “rabota,” meaning “work”) and a policeman is known as a “rozz,” (from the Russian “rozha,” meaning “ugly face.”)

That’s just to name a few. There are entire dictionaries dedicated to Nadsat, although they are hardly necessary to read the book. Burgess makes sure that all words are quickly understood through context, so that what could have been a chore ends up being really fun. Be warned: It’s very likely some Nadsat terms will stick in your head. Try not to use them in public, or be prepared for some strange looks in your direction.

However, language by itself can’t carry a book. Due to this, Burgess has stuffed “A Clockwork Orange” full of plenty of brain food for you to chew on. The story revolves around the narrator’s search for a purpose, even though he can’t see that himself. Alex and his gang of friends often skip school, stay out late and terrorize the local citizens through robbery, assault and even rape. The crew constantly searches for the next thrill, with bigger and bigger doses needed to fulfill their cravings.

It’s when Alex gets caught by police soon into the book, that some real moral issues come into play. As “professionals” begin experimenting with new rehabilitation treatments for criminals on Alex, readers are forced to ask questions. “What is good, and what is evil?” You may start to ponder.

While his evil acts may sound obscene and gross when talked about outside the book, it’s hard as a reader to not get a thrill when Alex describes them. As is the case with any passionate person, their passion tends to rub off on those around them. When we see Alex having a blast kicking a drunk, homeless man, part of us is repulsed — but another part of us is swayed by Alex and his joy.

In this way, the book seems to aim to make us question our own evil side. While most of us may not have done anything too crazy as teens, most can admit to at least some hijinks. And while Alex’s acts may be extreme, it’s hard not to root for him. He’s like our wildest, most uninhibited self, doing everything we know is wrong, but deep down might get a kick out of — if we could detach ourselves from feeling for others.

The best part about “A Clockwork Orange” is that it packs all this punch in under 200 pages. Head to your bookstore, pick it up, and by all means, buckle in for the ride. After all, Alex is behind the wheel.

Dean Goranites can be reached through Twitter at unleashingwords.

Text Only
  • SUN LIFE Open gardens 1 072014.jpg Stop and smell the flowers

    More than 90 private gardens throughout Western New York, and a number of public ones, are open to the public for select hours Thursdays and/or Fridays during July as part of the National Garden Festival’s Open Gardens program, now in its fifth year. The program is separate and distinct from local garden walks, and the gardens range from Gasport to Holland. They’re organized into districts of about five to eight gardens each, including Northtowns West (which includes gardens in Kenmore and the Town of Tonawanda) and Niagara Trail (which includes gardens in Lockport, Gasport and Lewiston).

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE terrariums 1 072014.jpg For the love of nature

    Sara Johnson lives surrounded by green and growing things. Showing a visitor around her apartment in North Buffalo, she pointed out the plants in every room, the balcony and even in two small greenhouses — houseplants, flowers, vegetables, even carnivorous plants.

    "I try to keep as much growing in the house as I can," she said.

    Another goal of hers is to show others how to do the same — and to that end, Johnson is offering a series of workshops this summer in connection with her business, Sylvatica Terrariums, and Project 308 Gallery in North Tonawanda, teaching people how to bring a piece of the outdoors into their homes in the form of a terrarium or other greenery.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE fresh air 1 072014.JPG Getting some fresh air

    As an effort to get children out of the big city and give them a chance to spend part of their summer playing outside, the Fresh Air Fund brings New York City kids to stay with host families for a 10-day trip to a place which is vastly different from their usually surroundings.

    “They will be running outside and playing in the grass and going swimming,” said Cheryl Flick, a fund representative of the Northern Erie and Niagara Counties chapter of the Fresh Air Fund at a picnic for the host families and kids. “They won’t be cooped up inside, they’ll be outside, getting fresh air and being active.”

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • sig - SUN LIFE double trouble 2014.jpg Still waiting for that letter from Hogwarts

    I think it’s true of many parents, that amidst the many challenges and hard work of parenting, we anticipate the day our children grow up just enough ... to like the same things we like, whether it’s as an ongoing phenomenon or a fond childhood memory.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • sig - critter companions RGB Calling all the basic locavores!

    Did you know that the suffix “vore” comes from the Latin word “voro,” which means to devour? I probably knew that once, but I should have paid better attention in my Latin class. “Vore” is used to form nouns indicating what kind of a diet an animal has, such as omnivore, carnivore and herbivore.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE NT tours 071314.jpg A closer look at NT

    When Explore Buffalo Tours got started about eight months ago, the business concentrated on specialized tours designed to showcase specific aspects of the City of Buffalo’s history, architecture and culture.

    Now the organization is looking to the future and trying out ways to highlight the other unique aspects of the Western New York region. The tours change out each month, but the more popular ones will circulate back in, according to Explore Buffalo Executive Director Brad Hahn. This month it’s test-driving its “North Tonawanda: Lumber City” tour, one of only a few to take place outside the City of Buffalo. (Although a Lockport tour is in the works.)

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFEe exercise 2 071314.jpg Fitness in the sun

     Following a trend of public, outdoor exercise programs, a number of local venues are offering their own free events aiming to get residents outside and active during the summer.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE muscoreils 1 071314.jpg Beyond the bakery

    For years, Muscoreil’s Fine Desserts & Gourmet Cakes has been a go-to location for desserts and wedding and occasion cakes in Western New York.

    This summer, even as the bakery deals with the rush of wedding season, changes at its associated bistro aim to create a revitalized focus on that side of the business, as well.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • sig - Crib Notes 2014 RGB.jpg Figuring out the birthday-party rules

    The options when you escort your child to a birthday party are endless, really. Everywhere you turn, there’s another thrill to uncover.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • sig - critter companions RGB The tail of two books

    As promised, here are some more new summer reads that are all about our critter companions. Both books were released mid-June, and although they are quite different from one another, both would be valuable assets for your in-house library.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo