Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday Excerpt: Red Red Krovvy and Torn Skin

Now Playing: Otto Ketting - Symphony No. 3 - 1


Here's another favorite book of mine.

A Clockwork Orange is at first difficult to read, not just because of the violence, but because of the language and the voice. It's very conversational and sometimes you might have to pause and look up the glossary so you don't miss something. But after about fifteen pages in, you'll probably get the hang of the style and it won't ever confuse you.

The way in which the readers feel as breathless and exhilarated as Alex is through the structure of the sentences: a lot of them are very, very long, grouped together in giant paragraphs. Short sentences make a reader pay attention to every single word. They slow time down. Long sentences do the opposite, picking up speed and dragging you along. Commas end up being like small dips in the road. You feel them as you pass them, but you're still racing forward.

It's mostly effective because it's Alex's voice. He talks fast and he talks a lot, but that's where part of his charm comes from. Like Humbert in Lolita, the way the reader comes to accept this narrator and his actions is through the prose. It's so unique and vivid, it's impossible to want to stop. (At least, that's how I feel about it).

This is from the climax of the book, close to the end, so there are spoilers ahead. It's also quite a long excerpt, but it didn't feel right to scale it down too much.

I crashed at the wall till my knuckles were all red red krovvy and torn skin, creeching and creeching, but the music did not stop. Then I thought I had to get away from it, so I lurched out the malenky bedroom and ittied skorry to the front door of the flat, but this had been locked from the outside and I could not get out. And all the time the music got more and more gromky, like it was all a deliberate torture, O my brothers. So I stuck my little fingers real deep in my ookos, but the trombones and kettledrums blasted through gromky enough. So I creeched again for them to stop and went hammer hammer hammer on the wall, but it made not one malenky bit of difference. 'Oh, what am I to do?' I boohooed to myself. 'Oh, Bog in Heaven help me.' I was like wandering all over the flat in pain and sickness, trying to shut out the music and like groaning deep out of my guts, and then on top of the pile of books and papers and all that cal that was on the table in the living room I viddied what I had to do and what I had wanted to do until those old men in the Public Biblio and then Dim and Billyboy disguised as rozzes stopped me, and that was to do myself in, to snuff it, to blast off for ever out of this wicked and cruel world. What I viddied was the slovo DEATH on the cover of a like pamphlet, even though it was only DEATH to THE GOVERNMENT. And like it was Fate there was another malenky booklet which had an open window on the cover, and it said: 'Open the window to fresh air, fresh ideas, a new way of living.' And so I knew that was like telling me to finish it all off by jumping out. One moment of pain, perhaps, and then sleep for ever and ever and ever.
The music was still pouring in all brass and drums and the violins miles up through the wall. The window in the room where I had laid down was open. I ittied to it and viddied a fair drop to the autos and buses and waiting chellovecks below. I creeched out to the world: 'Good-bye, good-bye, may Bog forgive you for a ruined life.' Then I got on to the sill, the music blasting away to my left, and I shut my glazzies and felt the cold wind on my litso, then I jumped.
- A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

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"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
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