June 7, 2017

Anthony Burgess invented slang for "A Clockwork Orange" and began to write a dictionary for it.

He never finished, and, worse, the thing was lost. But now it's found.
What survives are 6x4 slips of paper on which each entry is typed. There are 153, 700 and 33 slips for the letters A, B and Z respectively.
Anna Edwards, the archivist of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, said:
"We found the surviving fragments of the dictionary at the bottom of a large cardboard box, packed underneath some old bedsheets. I suppose the reason for not finding this earlier is that the box seemed to be full of household objects, not literary papers.”...
There are a few entries reproduced at the link (which goes to The Guardian), including:
Abdabs (the screaming) – Fit of nerves, attack of delirium tremens, or other uncontrollable emotional crisis. Perhaps imitative of spasm of the jaw, with short, sharp screams....

Abortion – Anything ugly, ill-shapen, or generally detestable: ‘You look a right bloody abortion, dressed like that’; ‘a nasty little abortion of a film’ (Australian in origin)....
This makes me think of a topic I'd been contemplating writing about: the problem of making a movie out of a book. I'm thinking about it today because I finally got the DVD of "The Mosquito Coast" that I ordered. While waiting for the movie, I read the book. Now, I'm trying to watch the movie without being dogged by thoughts about what's different from the book or not as good as the book, etc. etc. I was just reading a lot of articles about why it's so hard to make satisfying book-based movies (unless the book is rather bad (e.g., "The Godfather")).

With that in the background of my thoughts — and I'd just read about how Stephen King didn't like Stanley Kubrick's version of "The Shining" — writing this post made me wonder what Anthony Burgess thought of Stanley Kubrick's version of "Clockwork Orange." I found this quote:

The book I am best known for, or only known for, is a novel I am prepared to repudiate... a jeu d'esprit knocked off for money in three weeks, it became known as the raw material for a film which seemed to glorify sex and violence. The film made it easy for readers of the book to misunderstand what it was about, and the misunderstanding will pursue me until I die. I should not have written the book because of this danger of misinterpretation.
That sounds all caught up in the criticisms of the time. And then I found this, a long essay by Burgess, explaining what it would mean not to misinterpret his book:
What I was trying to say was that it is better to be bad of one’s own free will than to be good through scientific brainwashing. When Alex has the power of choice, he chooses only violence. But, as his love of music shows, there are other areas of choice. In the British edition of the book—though not in the American, nor in the film—there is an epilogue that shows Alex growing up, learning distaste for his old way of life, thinking of love as more than a mode of violence, even foreseeing himself as a husband and father...

Is freedom of choice really all that important? For that matter, is man capable of it? Again, does the term “freedom” have any intrinsic meaning? These are questions I must ask and attempt to answer. For the moment, I have to record that I have been derided and rebuked for expressing my fears of the power of the modern state—whether it be Russia, China, or what we may term Anglo-America—to reduce the freedom of the individual. Literature has warned of this power, books like Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” and George Orwell’s “1984,” but “sensible” people, not much moved by imaginative writing, are always telling us that we have little to worry about. Indeed, B. F. Skinner’s book “Beyond Freedom and Dignity” came out at the very time that “A Clockwork Orange” first appeared on the screen, ready to demonstrate the advantages of what we may call beneficent brainwashing. Our world is in a bad way, says Skinner, what with the problems of war, pollution of the environment, civil violence, the population explosion. Human behavior must change—that much, he says, is self-evident, and few would disagree—and in order to do this we need a technology of human behavior. We can leave out of account the inner man, the man we meet when we debate with ourselves, the hidden being concerned with God and the soul and ultimate reality. We must view man from the outside, considering particularly what makes one item of human behavior move on to another. The behaviorist approach to man, of which Professor Skinner is a great exponent, sees him moved to various kinds of action by aversive and non-aversive inducements. Fear of the whip drove the slave to work; fear of dismissal still drives the wage-slave to work. It is such negative reinforcements to action that Professor Skinner condemns; what he wants to see more of is positive reinforcements. You teach a circus animal tricks not by cruelty but by kindness. (Skinner should know: much of his experimental work has been with animals; some of his achievements in animal conditioning approach a high professional circus level.) Given the right positive inducements—to which we respond not rationally but through our conditioned instincts—we shall all become better citizens, submissive to a state that has the good of the community at heart. We must, so the argument goes, not fear conditioning. We need to be conditioned in order to save the environment and the race. But it must be conditioning of the right sort....
Much more at the link. 

64 comments:

Gahrie said...

Given the right positive inducements—to which we respond not rationally but through our conditioned instincts—we shall all become better citizens, submissive to a state that has the good of the community at heart. We must, so the argument goes, not fear conditioning. We need to be conditioned in order to save the environment and the race. But it must be conditioning of the right sort....

A pretty damn good description of Progressivism.

Gabriel said...

Some of the same themes hit in C. S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man.

tl, dr version: The generation that figures out eugenics or conditioning or whatever it is that successfully reshapes humanity will be making choices that constrain all future generations. By hypothesis, this generation is itself imperfect. Consequently they will make mistakes, and these mistakes will be ineradicable, all future humans will be limited by their mistaken choices.

wild chicken said...

I think the better movie scripts come from short stories and novellas. Like Miracle on 34th Street. Perfection.

Novels are just too co.Plex for the format. Even GWTW cut out at least one subplot and a couple husbands.

Carter Wood said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carter Wood said...

New York Times, December 31, 1986:

PUBLISHING: 'CLOCKWORK ORANGE' REGAINS CHAPTER 21
By EDWIN McDOWELL

...
But Eric P. Swenson, Norton's executive editor, who acquired the book after having published two other Burgess novels, remembers it differently. He admired ''A Clockwork Orange'' on sight, he writes, but he did not believe the last chapter in which Alex, after a lifetime ''of alienation, rape, torture, random brutality and rebellion from society as total as Mr. Burgess' unsurpassed imagination could project, is quickly brainwashed into morality and a sense of membership in the social order.'' When he suggested dropping that chapter for the American edition, the author, according to Mr. Swenson, ''responded to my comments by telling me that I was right, that he had added the 21st, upbeat chapter because his British publisher wanted a happy ending.'' Moreover, Mr. Swenson recently denied ever saying that Norton would publish the book only if Mr. Burgess agreed to remove the chapter.

Carter Wood said...

Burgess used to call into Larry King's overnight national radio show in the '80s. He gave fascinating interviews on writing, words, music and, IIRC, films. I read his opus, Earthly Powers, and became hooked.

Albert Brooks was an occasional caller, as well.

Bob said...

I thought the movie was better than the book. but I saw the movie first.

Virtually Unknown said...

Old novels, written when travel was a privilege of the very few, contained long passages of description, which people actually liked, a movie has an incredible bandwidth to convey this stuff in seconds. Complex interplay of ideas, not so much. I'm not knocking movies, I think they are a high art, but they are limited when you get to the non-visual aspects of a story. Burgess was an effing genius, and should be read directly. Lots and lots of ideas. A movie that was faithful to one of his books would likely be thirty hours long.

Lonesome Dove worked great as a mini-series because of the time the format allowed, but even that story was very visual as a novel to start with.

Unknown said...

Re: 'knocked it off in three weeks"

This was nearly standard operating procedure for English novelists of Burgess' generation. They had that wonderfully English ethic -- quite at odds with the mythos of the American literary genius wrestling for years with his opus -- of getting on with it and submitting two or three novels a year to their publishers.

Love, love, love Burgess.

The Godfather said...

The book was very powerful, very challenging. The supposed final chapter where everything turns out OK in the end would have spoiled it. For me, anyway. Much of the power of the book came from the tension between freedom and decency. The unresolved tension.

Ambrose said...

Funny this post is so close to the one about film adaptations. For me (and of course subjective), A Clockwork Orange is the only movie adaptation of a major novel I can think of that surpassed the book. And I found the book very impressive - but it could not convey the violence or the music in the same way the film did.

mockturtle said...

A few movies are better than the books. Two that come to mind are both Spielberg's: Jaws and The Color Purple.

Sebastian said...

Anthony Burgess, the man for our times.

"It was the week before Christmas, Monday midday, mild and muggy, and the muezzins of West London were yodeling about there being no God but Allah: 'La ilaha illa'lah. La ilaha illa'lah.'"

Earnest Prole said...

I would argue Puzo’s book is a neo-baroque masterpiece, but after nearly fifty years of conventional wisdom it's virtually impossible to see it with fresh eyes.

James K said...

What I was trying to say was that it is better to be bad of one’s own free will than to be good through scientific brainwashing.

I only saw the movie, never read the book, and it seemed pretty clear that that was Burgess's point. In fact playing up the violence drove home the point even more strongly.

Bay Area Guy said...

This was the reverse of the JD Salinger issue: here, the movie was shocking (at the time), but enjoyable, while the book with all that slang was indecipherable and unreadable.

Saint Croix said...

I'm not sure who I loathe more, B. F. Skinner or A Clockwork Orange.

I want to control your mind!

vs.

They're trying to control my mind!

320Busdriver said...

Virtually unknown said...Burgess was an effing genius, and should be read directly. Lots and lots of ideas. A movie that was faithful to one of his books would likely be thirty hours long.

Totally agree. I read the book first, and glad I did. Otoh Kubrick was also a genius. The only piece I need to see is Barry Lyndon...maybe tonights the night.

Static Ping said...

I have only seen the movie and at the time I had no idea what it was about. It was rather a shock to the system. It's a very good movie, mind you, but not exactly something to witness cold having come directly out of church.

My sense is they tried to make the rape scenes especially difficult on the men in the audience by making the victims very attractive and very naked. There are competing urges to feel pity and dread for the woman screaming in terror combined with the involuntary feeling of arousal at seeing such a beautiful woman without clothes. It ends up very creepy. I shouldn't feel like that at all! Could I be that hooligan under different circumstances? Whether this was the goal or if they just wanted to show nudity to bring in the audience I don't know, but it was the most uncomfortable part of the film for me.

I have heard the word "abortion" used in conversation as Burgess defined it there as something detestable with an implication that it shouldn't exist. I'm not sure if the speaker got it from the book or if it was something they came up with on their own, but that definition is valid in certain circles apparently.

Saint Croix said...

That's not an opinion on Burgess's book, but on Kubrick's movie.

Not much of a fan of The Shining either.

To me there's a sharp divide between Kubrick's early stuff and the rest of it.

TML said...

Oh, wow!!! The Mosquito Coast. I loved the book. Loved it. Was partially fascinated by the movie. The ice scene still sticks with me to this day. Only on your blog would that book/movie ever come up.

Why do I think now that Theroux was implicated in some very nasty child molestation charges?

Earnest Prole said...

The critical animus against Puzo is a lot like the establishment animus against Trump: He’s hated because he appeals to and celebrates working-class values, he does so in a style that seems baroque, he’s politically incorrect, and he made lots of money.

Earnest Prole said...

The dictionary has as a second meaning for abortion "an object or undertaking regarded by the speaker as unpleasant or badly made or carried out."

dbp said...

The best interpretation of a novel that I have seen in a movie was another of Stephan King, The Dead Zone, with Christopher Walken. A few scenes were cut-out but they captured the feeling of the novel perfectly. Bonus for leftists, the Martin Sheen character matches exactly the fever-dreams they have about Trump.

I found both the movie and novel of A Clockwork Orange tedious, but Burges' The Doctor Is Sick is a comic masterpiece. And all the other novels I've read by him are at a minimum, very worthwhile.

exiledonmainstreet said...

I never felt the film glorified violence, although it did make Alex slightly more sympathetic (in the movie, he has a comically rendered high speed bedroom romp with two young women; in the novel he rapes a couple of 10 year old girls).

Andrew Loog Oldham, the Stone's first manager and very savvy publicist, certainly misread the novel as a glorification of sex and violence. He was enthralled with "A Clockwork Orange," which inspired him to model the Stones after the droogs and make them the bad boy anti-Beatles. (Up to a certain point, of course - Loog Oldham wanted the band to make lots of money, not end up in prison for rape or murder.) One of the Stones' early albums - I forget which one - had liner notes written by Loog Oldham which were a clear echo of Alex's style. And of course their surliness and rudeness, their dirtiness (when you look at early Stones clips, Jagger's hair often looked like he had shampooed with mayonnaise) and their blatant sexuality absolutely horrified parents.

Some of that came from the fact that they were white English boys trying to sound like Delta bluesmen. But much of it was the creation of Loog Oldham, who hated the blues stuff, much preferring songs like "19th Nervous Breakdown."

Lewis Wetzel said...

Language Made Plain by Burgess is a must-read for anyone who uses English. Why is "y" not a true vowel? It uses the lips to change tone. a,e,i,o,u you can sustain until you run out of breath, because the sounds are made by passing air over the vibrating vocal chords and holding the tongue in a certain position. Not so "y".
Too bad it is not available as an ebook.

Saint Croix said...

I wonder why Kubrick and Sellers stopped working together? Their art together was genius. I feel like Kubrick needs humor in his work, it turns his misanthropy into high art.

Kubrick was in awe of Sellers.

Interestingly, Sellers had the same reaction to A Clockwork Orange that I did.

I hated A Clockwork Orange. I thought it was the biggest load of crap I’ve ever seen for years. Amoral. I think because of the violence around today it’s lamentable that a director of Stanley Kubrick’s distinction and ability should lend himself to such a subject. I’m not saying that you can’t pick up that book [the Anthony Burgess novel upon which the film is based], read it, and put it down. But to make it as a film, with all the violence we have in the world today – to add to it, to put it on show – I just don’t understand where Stanley is at.

Saint Croix said...

I was just reading a lot of articles about why it's so hard to make satisfying book-based movies (unless the book is rather bad (e.g., "The Godfather")).

Whenever somebody rants about how the book is always better than the movie, ask if they've read Mario Puzo lately. "She's too big down there." Stop the literature, it's over my head.

Saint Croix said...

Also it's rather a shock to try to read The Graduate.

Wow, that's a stupid book.

Lewis Wetzel said...

"But to make it as a film, with all the violence we have in the world today – to add to it, to put it on show – I just don’t understand where Stanley is at."

"Violence in the world today"? in 1972?
Compared to what era? The 1890s?

Saint Croix said...

My short list of movies that are better than the books.

After the Thin Man
The Maltese Falcon
Rear Window
The Graduate
Pride & Prejudice
Shoot the Piano Player
To Catch a Thief
The Dark Knight
Sherlock Holmes
Clueless
Minority Report
The 39 Steps
The Birds
Another Thin Man
The Mummy
The Spider Woman
The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Thin Man
The Avengers
Jaws
High and Low
Thunderbolt
To Have and Have Not
The Player
And Then There Were None
2001: A Space Odyssey
Diabolique
Lolita
The Long Goodbye
The Lady in the Lake
Psycho
The Bourne Identity
Paycheck
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Jurassic Park
Shadow of the Thin Man
Charlie Chan on Broadway
From Russia With Love
The House of Fear
Goldfinger
Out of Sight
Charlie Chan in Monte Carlo
Song of the Thin Man
Murder, My Sweet
The Natural
Blade Runner
The Little Mermaid
Mansfeld Park
Sex and the Single Girl
The Manchurian Candidate
Emma
Dracula
The Princess Bride
Murder She Said
X-Men
Lord of the Flies
Strangers on a Train
Vertigo
The Name of the Rose
Dr. No
Three Days of the Condor
Young Frankenstein
Nosferatu
All the President's Men
Harper
The Killers
The Godfather

The Godfather said...

In response to St. Croix: I thought the movie of Jaws was very good, but the book was an order of magnitude better. I still remember reading the first few pages of the book (I was on the Metroliner from Washington to New York, in maybe 1974-75); I will never forget it. And in the movie [SPOILER ALERT] the Richard Dreyfuss character survives, whereas his death in the novel is gut wrenching.

mockturtle said...

In response to St. Croix: I thought the movie of Jaws was very good, but the book was an order of magnitude better.

No way. I read the book first and was impressed with how Spielberg threw out the chaff and kept the wheat, much as he did with The Color Purple.

Yancey Ward said...

I had read A Clockwork Orange before I had seen the film- Burgess is correct that Kubrick gives the story a different, let's say, perspective. I pretty much find almost all novels are better than their film adaptations as long as the novel itself is worthwhile, and I don't think A Clockwork Orange violates this rule for me. However, the movie is a masterpiece, and I think Burgess shouldn't feel all that bad about how Kubrick changed the story.

Ann mentions The Shining- here I had seen the movie first in 1980, and read the book sometime at the end of 1981. I think the film surpasses the novel greatly, but then I have always considered the novel one of King's very worst. Someone did a mini-series of the novel at some point, and it was very true to the novel's story, and so dreadful to watch that I quite halfway through.

Quaestor said...

My favorite Burgess novel is Napoleon Symphony, which Kubrick was also keen to film, at least at first glance. As it turned out Kubrick decided to handle the screenplay himself, a task that he never completed.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Blogger Saint Croix said...
My short list of movies that are better than the books.

. . .
Lolita
The Long Goodbye
The Lady in the Lake
. . .

Good lord! Lolita? Do you realize Humbert Humbert was an unreliable narrator? And that lolita was the only truly innocent character in the book?

TheGiantPeach said...

If memory serves me, Burgess's novel "The Napoleon Symphony" was dedicated to "Stanley Kubrick, maestro di colore."

"A Clockwork Orange" is great, to a large degree, because Burgess envisioned how the English language might evolve. Another novel that impressed me in that respect was "Riddley Walker" by Russell Hoban.

gnome said...

What about "One flew over the cuckoo's nest"? I still can't work out whether the book was better than the movie or vice versa.
Not the best movie ever made, and maybe the best novel ever. (It's either that or "Christ recrucified" - I can't work that one out either.)
Does that logically mean that I think movies are better than books? I'm open on that one too.
What about John Fowles' "the Magus" and "The French Lieutenant's Woman". It takes three viewings of the movies and two readings of the books to work out what is going on.

Saint Croix said...

Good lord! Lolita?

The biggest mistake in my post was when auto-correct changed Thunderball into Thunderbolt.

There actually is a Jackie Chan movie called Thunderbolt, and a Bill Bryson book called Thunderbolt, but (I'm guessing) completely unrelated material.

I don't remember if Ian Fleming put sharks in the swimming pool. Probably not. My take on Fleming is that he has no sense of humor. That's the entire basis of my rant on the novel, The Graduate. It's humorless. Re-imagine that art as a drama, as a rant, as if the author set out to prove that we should not trust those people over 30. Ugh. What a boring, stupid slog. Maybe it got better, but I had to get out.

Do you realize Humbert Humbert was an unreliable narrator?

Yes.

And that lolita was the only truly innocent character in the book?

How do you know Lolita was truly innocent when your narrator is unreliable?

gnome said...

St Croix - you are wrong. Most of those movies and books are totally forgettable, but "The Name of the Rose" is a fair movie from a truly great book. Your problem is probably that you saw the movie first and expect the characters in the book to be the sort of caricatures they were in the movie.

Saint Croix said...

In response to St. Croix: I thought the movie of Jaws was very good, but the book was an order of magnitude better. I still remember reading the first few pages of the book (I was on the Metroliner from Washington to New York, in maybe 1974-75); I will never forget it. And in the movie [SPOILER ALERT] the Richard Dreyfuss character survives, whereas his death in the novel is gut wrenching.

it's a very good book!

no music though

and I like happy endings

Saint Croix said...

St Croix - you are wrong. Most of those movies and books are totally forgettable, but "The Name of the Rose" is a fair movie from a truly great book. Your problem is probably that you saw the movie first and expect the characters in the book to be the sort of caricatures they were in the movie.

I think my problem is fear of commitment and damn that book is long. When can I get out? Oh fuck, another digression.

Do you think Jane Austen is totally forgettable? What the hell, man. Why isn't anybody yelling at me about Jane Austen?


gnome said...

Furthermore - nothing written by Larry McMurtry could be adequately represented on film, no matter how long the series or whatever. His characters are all too innocent pure observers to come across well on screen. Even Blue Duck is an observer with bad habits and a bad reputation, not an evil soul. It doesn't work on screen.
Likewise Stephen King. There is no way the small-town charm and the author's individual generosity of spirit can be translated to film.
(And to round off the current crop - Cormac McCarthy never wrote anything that wasn't a pretty facile, shallow movie script to start with. Crap books, crap movies, overrated to hell.
Elmore Leonard deserves a Nobel Prize for Literature and would have had it except that the US already scored too many in the second half of the twentieth century. Hombre - movie/book ?? 3.10 to Yuma?? Get Shorty??)

gnome said...

No St Croix - I wasn't going to go one by one, and Jane Austen isn't to my taste, so I didn't defend her. I did think about having a go at your Dashiell Hammett selections, but it would be ungracious to pick a at Bogart and Claude Rains movie from so long ago.

Some of those books and movies are so old they belong to an earlier genre anyway. Maybe they were good for their time but haven't aged well. It isn't fair to compare a new movie with an old book, and sometimes the incremental cultural movement weighs the balance.

gnome said...

Anyway - what about "one flew over the cuckoo's nest"?

Saint Croix said...

Elmore Leonard deserves a Nobel Prize for Literature

Agreed!

nothing written by Larry McMurtry could be adequately represented on film

I say the same thing about Wodehouse. You can't capture his genius on film. That's also likely true of C.S. Lewis and Mark Twain.

What film needs is a strong, tight plot, and great characters. What film does not need are all those damn words. So if what makes a writer brilliant is his use of language, that's not going to translate well to the screen.

Brando said...

The Shining was a decent movie, but I do agree with King that Nicholson played the Jack Torrance role crazy from the very beginning (note the scene when they're driving to the hotel at the beginning, and Jack says "yeah...he learned it from the TV..." with a creepy smile--it was clear right there he was off his rocker). In the book, it shows Jack as a troubled recovering alcoholic who loves his wife and kid and hates himself for hurting them, and needs the job as a last desperate gamble--the movie just goes straight to "crazy guy goes more crazy in weird hotel".

Saint Croix said...

Jane Austen isn't to my taste, so I didn't defend her.

I can't read her. I tried. Can't do it.

Her class obsessions drive me up the wall. Me and Mark Twain.

But most of the movies based on her books are fantastic.

It makes me happy that the people who love Austen were able to translate her work so I could love it too!

I tried reading her with zombies but that didn't work either.

Saint Croix said...

I haven't any right to criticise books, and I don't do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.

that would be a funny movie!

Saint Croix said...

what about "one flew over the cuckoo's nest"?

good book, good movie

I call it a tie

gnome said...

"Who is Mark Twain"? Mark Twain is a character in a Larry McMurtry novel. Every character in every novel.
The pure American observer.

Ann Althouse said...

"Oh, wow!!! The Mosquito Coast. I loved the book. Loved it. Was partially fascinated by the movie. The ice scene still sticks with me to this day. Only on your blog would that book/movie ever come up."

Click on the Theroux tag. I have a number of posts on the book, and you'll see my reason for reading it.

"Why do I think now that Theroux was implicated in some very nasty child molestation charges?"

That made me look up his Wikipedia page. I saw nothing about molestation, but I did find -- surprisingly -- that he wrote something in The New Yorker that got him in trouble with -- of all people -- Anthony Burgess.

Virtually Unknown said...

My sense is they tried to make the rape scenes especially difficult on the men in the audience by making the victims very attractive and very naked. There are competing urges to feel pity and dread for the woman screaming in terror combined with the involuntary feeling of arousal at seeing such a beautiful woman without clothes. It ends up very creepy. I shouldn't feel like that at all! Could I be that hooligan under different circumstances? Whether this was the goal or if they just wanted to show nudity to bring in the audience I don't know, but it was the most uncomfortable part of the film for me.

My sentiments exactly, that girl was achingly beautiful and the violence was kind of horrific.

Anybody who thinks the move Lolita was better than the book, well, I just can't go there. It's like saying Mogen David is better than a Chateau Margaux '57.

One movie that greatly surpassed the book was The Last of the Mohicans. Don't get Mark Twain started on that one!

Virtually Unknown said...

I'm telling you Althouse, a book club type post every now and again, with a couple weeks warning and a link to your portal could not only be a moneymaker for you, but your readers would love it. Except there's the thing that you would probably have to read the book.... ; )

Saint Croix said...

Anybody who thinks the move Lolita was better than the book, well, I just can't go there. It's like saying Mogen David is better than a Chateau Margaux '57.

I'm a beer man!

And I don't know if you want to argue with Frank Booth!

mockturtle said...

Jane Austen is infinitely forgettable.

Virtually Unknown said...

I'll argue with anybody. That is well known. Following a lifetime of experience, I have learned to trust my own judgements.

Henry said...

I've never read Clockwork Orange and saw just enough of the movie (several different times) to not want to watch the whole thing.

Russell Hoban's RIddley Walker is another book with a unique language. Some of it is just a weird spelling system. But much of the dialect is unique. There's an annotation site dedicated to explicating it, here:

Riddley Walker Annotations

Chris White said...

"Mosquito Coast" is a great movie, my favorite Harrison Ford movie. Its a really good illustration of the difference between idealistic daydreams and cold hard reality.
Theroux is an excellent writer of travel books now.

Amexpat said...

I read "A Clockwork Orange" in the 80's and I believe it had a glossary for the slang terms. I assume that's something Burgess compiled from his dictionary.

Martin said...

In "The Kid Stays in the Picture", movie producer Robert Evans tells a story about the genesis of The Godfather. It goes something like this:

"Mario Puzo told me he had 10 grand in gambling debts and that he'd probably get his arms broken for it. I paid him 12-and-a-half grand and said, 'Go write the fuckin' thing.'"

It would be a simplification to call The Godfather by Mario Puzo (1969) a novelization of the movie (1972), but it would also be wrong to think of it as a regular novel-into-movie story. It was commissioned, written and published with the intention of turning it into a movie. Not surprisingly, the movie is better than the book.

Evans did something similar with Love Story, which was (I think) filmed before the novel was written and published, but Evans was convinced that people would dismiss the movie as fluff unless there was a book behind it.

James Lileks said...

Re: Burgess calling into Larry King - he was a guest a few times in studio, and one night I called up and got on. Burgess was my literary idol. (Still is.) Heart thumping as I hear Larry blow through the calls - then he says "Minneapolis, you're on." I start talking - only to realize that someone else is talking. The caller before me was also from Minneapolis. AND BURGESS STARTS ASKING HIM QUESTIONS ABOUT MINNEAPOLIS, since he'd done some work at the Guthrie. The caller couldn't answer anything. By the time they got to me Burgess was done with Minneapolis and wanted to move on. I asked my show-off question and got an answer - I had the right to an answer, after all - and bang, that was it.

The book is great. The movie is great. Two different things with their own approach. The novel distances the reader from the violence through language; the movie makes you complicit in the violence through its sympathetic portrayal, although Burgess gives Alex a cozening tone Kubrick simply amplified.

mockturtle said...

It would be a simplification to call The Godfather by Mario Puzo (1969) a novelization of the movie (1972), but it would also be wrong to think of it as a regular novel-into-movie story. It was commissioned, written and published with the intention of turning it into a movie. Not surprisingly, the movie is better than the book.

Not only better than the book but truly an American film classic.

Rich Rostrom said...

When the film "Heathers" was scripted, the writers wanted to included a lot of teen slang. But they realized that by the time the script was sold, the production organized, the film actually shot, then edited and formatted, and actually released to theaters, any current teen slang they had used would be out of date.

So they decided to invent a bunch of teen slang for use in the film. They figured that teen viewers would just think it was so new they hadn't heard it yet.