A Dispatch from the “Open mouth, disengage brain” department: spotting someone I had not seen in a while on the transfer from the 747 chicken-bus to the terminal, I blurted “Long time no viddy, old droog”. The man seated next to me spun his head so fast it should have hurt. “Anthony Burgess? Clockwork Orange”? You betcha, right in one.
I discovered AB through the film version of that novel. Even back then, I read the credits. Intrigued, I read his other works, and found an author who continued to please, to intrigue, and to make me laugh until the end of his life. A bit of biblio-trivia: the novel, when published in the US, was truncated by one chapter. It had 21 chapters (21: age of adulthood, gedditgeddit?) when published in England; AB’s American editors, to lighten the ending of the novel they said, lopped off the last chapter. AB was furious, and when Kubrick filmed the novel from the American edition, Burgess washed his hands of the project.
The early American edition, truncation notwithstanding, did a very sneaky thing. There was no glossary for the NADSAT slang (read: Russian) so those words (droog, tolchock, kal, grachny brachny, etc.) wormed their way into our vocabulary through context and a bit of slow going in the early stages. My droogs and I had a slang our parents had no clue about. For someone like me, at that age getting caught in the web of words, it was a frabjous day indeed. The modern editions seen do have the glossary, making it ‘easier’ for the reader. I know it is fiction and all, but gee, the reader has to do some sort of work beyond just reading the novel.
AB took pleasure in pointing out the absurdities of daily life (“All illiterates will report to Room 2 for reading instruction” read the note on the Company bulletin board at his duty station on Gibraltar, relayed in the first volume of his autobiography, Little Wilson and Big God), always a good feature in a novelist. I miss him.
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