This Day In Literary History
On May 22nd, 1859, the legendary English writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. The son of a drunkard, his father's only accomplishment in life was siring an intellectually gifted child.
At the age of eight, Arthur Conan Doyle was sent to a Jesuit prep school called Hodder Place. From there, he attended a Jesuit university, Stonyhurst College, but after graduating in 1875, he cast off the yoke of Christianity and became an agnostic.
For the next five years, Conan Doyle studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh. During this time, he began writing short stories. He sold his first story to Chambers's Edinburgh Journal before his 20th birthday.
In 1882, he joined his classmate George Budd in a Plymouth medical practice, but their relationship soon soured. Conan Doyle left for Portsmouth, where he set up his own medical practice. Unsuccessful at first, he began writing stories again while waiting for patients.
After many rejections, his debut novel A Study In Scarlet was published, first in 1887 by Beeton's Christmas Annual magazine, then in book form a year later, with illustrations by his father, Charles.
The novel's main character was a detective called Sherlock Holmes. The brilliant, analytical, and laid-back Holmes was assisted by his friend, Dr. John Watson, who also served as narrator for the duo's adventures.
When he wasn't solving crimes, Holmes' passions included playing the violin and enjoying a good game of chess. He also had a fondness for cocaine and morphine, which he used to escape from "the dull routine of existence."
As a detective, Holmes wasn't above deceiving the police or concealing evidence if necessary to solve the crime. His main nemesis was the evil Professor Moriarty, who possessed an intellect comparable to Holmes.
A Study In Scarlet was the first of four novels and 56 short stories to feature Sherlock Holmes, who would become one of the greatest iconic literary characters of all time.
Conan Doyle himself would later become a real life sleuth, investigating closed cases where he believed that the defendants had been wrongfully convicted.
In 1906, his first case, that of a half-English, half-Indian lawyer named George Edalji convicted of writing threatening letters and mutilating animals, led to the establishment of England's Court of Criminal Appeal a year later.
In addition to the Sherlock Holmes novels and stories, Conan Doyle's large body of work also included a series of science fiction writings featuring the character of Professor Challenger.
Though he possessed a brilliant mind like Sherlock Holmes, he was far from laid-back and described as "a homicidal megalomaniac with a turn for science." Conan Doyle's first work to feature Professor Challenger, a novel called The Lost World, was published in 1912.
In it, Professor Challenger claims to have discovered a South American plateau where dinosaurs still exist. A skeptical reporter, Edward Malone, accompanies Challenger on an expedition and finds that the irascible scientist was right. Not only are there dinosaurs in the Lost World, but a race of ape-men as well.
Conan Doyle was a believer in the supernatural world and wrote two nonfiction books on the subject, The Coming Of The Fairies (1921) and The History Of Spiritualism (1926).
In the 1920s, he became friends with the legendary American magician Harry Houdini, but Houdini's work as a prominent debunker of spiritualism soon led to a bitter falling out between the two men.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was knighted in 1902, an honor he believed was bestowed on him as the result of The War in South Africa: Its Cause and Conduct, a pamphlet he had written justifying England's role in the Boer War to an outraged world.
He later wrote a nonfiction book on the conflict called The Great Boer War. He died in 1930 of a heart attack at the age of 71. He will always be remembered as one of the greatest mystery writers of all time.
Quote Of The Day
"My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation." - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Today's video features the only filmed interview with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle known to exist - an early talkie shot in October of 1928 for a Movietone News newsreel. Enjoy!
Wednesday, May 22, 2019
Tuesday, May 21, 2019
This Day In Literary History
On May 21st, 1688, the legendary English writer and scholar Alexander Pope was born in London. As a young boy, Pope's education was complicated by the anti-Catholic laws enacted to establish the Church of England as the British empire's official clerical body.
Unable to attend public school, he was taught to read and write by his aunt. Pope began his formal education at Twyford School in Hampshire. Twyford was a Church of England public school, but its administrators chose to ignore the law and allow him to attend.
He would later attend Catholic schools which, though technically illegal, were tolerated in some towns. When he was twelve years old, Pope contracted Pott's disease, a rare form of tuberculosis that attacks the bones and deforms them.
The disease left him a hunchback and stunted his growth. He would grow no taller than 4'6", or 1.37 meters. Already a social pariah because he was Catholic, Pope's deformities alienated him further from society.
He would never marry, but he had many female friends, and wrote them witty letters. One woman, his lifelong friend Martha Blount, was allegedly his lover.
Pope's health problems, which also included respiratory trouble, high fevers, inflammation of the eyes, and stomach pain, didn't affect his mind. He gained a reputation for his intellect, his rapacious wit, and his satirical verse.
When his first poetry collection, Pastorals (1709), appeared in the sixth part of publisher Jacob Tonson's anthology Poetical Miscellanies, it made him an overnight sensation. He soon struck up friendships with fellow writers Jonathan Swift, John Gay, Thomas Parnell, and John Arbuthnot.
Together, they formed the Scriblerus Club, which was dedicated to satirizing ignorance and pedantry via a fictional scholar named Martinus Scriblerus. Pope continued on his path of literary success with his poems The Rape of the Lock (1712) and Windsor Forest (1713).
The Rape of the Lock was one of Pope's most popular poems. The mock-heroic epic poem satirized the high society quarrel between Arabella Fermor (named Belinda in the poem) and Lord Petre, (the Baron) who had cut off a lock of her hair without her permission.
Pope mocks the conflict in an epic style; after Belinda's hair is stolen, she tries to get it back but it flies through the air and turns into a star. He later became friends with poet and playwright Joseph Addison and contributed to Addison's classic play, Cato.
He also wrote essays for magazines of the day such as The Guardian and The Spectator. His classic epic poem An Essay on Criticism was first published anonymously in 1711.
A satirical attempt to declare and refine his views as a poet and critic, the poem was said to be Pope's response to an ongoing debate on whether poetry should be a natural product of the poet's mind and heart or written according to predetermined, traditional rules such as meter.
In his inimitable style, Pope deliberately leaves the poem unclear and full of contradictions. His own position was that while rules were necessary, so was the passion and imagination that gave poetry its mysterious, sometimes baffling qualities.
An Essay on Criticism featured the famous line, "For fools rush in where angels fear to tread." Pope's most ambitious projects were his English translations of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. Beginning in 1717, his translation of the Iliad appeared in one volume a year over a six year period.
For his translation of the Odyssey, Pope, confronted with the arduousness of the task and his increasingly fragile health, employed his friends William Broome and Elijah Fenton to work on the translation with him.
The entire translation was published under Pope's name; when word got out that he hadn't translated the entire work himself, his reputation took a hit, but the translation of the Odyssey still sold well. It first appeared in 1726.
Before he began work on the Odyssey, a volume of Shakespeare's plays transcribed and edited by Pope was published. The volume had been commissioned by Pope's publisher. It was hugely controversial - more like a revision of Shakespeare's plays than a transcription.
Pope cut over 1,500 lines and relegated them to footnotes, believing them to be of such poor quality that he doubted Shakespeare had ever written them. The lines, he thought, were the result of actors' interpolations. Poet Lewis Theobald wrote a scathing pamphlet denouncing the volume called Shakespeare Restored.
Among Pope's last great works were a series of poems called Imitations of Horace. Appearing between 1733-38, they were satires of life under King George II and the corruption of Robert Walpole's ministry, which Pope believed was tainting Britain. By the time he completed the series in 1738, his health began to deteriorate.
He planned to write an epic blank verse poem called Brutus, but he abandoned it and only a few lines have survived. Instead, he devoted his remaining years to revising his final masterwork, The Dunciad.
The four-book satirical epic poem told the story of how the goddess Dulness and her servants plunge Britain into a quagmire of imbecility, tastelessness, and ultimately, decay. Originally written in three books, Pope revised it and added a fourth book, which was published in 1742.
Alexander Pope died two years later, on May 30th, 1744. He was 56 years old.
Quote Of The Day
"If you want to know what God thinks about money, just look at the people He gives it to." - Alexander Pope
Today's video features a complete reading of Alexander Pope's classic satirical epic poem, The Rape of the Lock. Enjoy!
Monday, May 20, 2019
Cezarija E. Abartis
I'm pleased to announce that "Sleeping Beauty – Three Stories" was published in print and online at Typehouse Literary Magazine, pages 88 - 91. I want to thank Tony Awori and Eric Petersen for their reviews. Dave Gregory's "Last Jump Off the Lift Bridge" is also in the issue. Yay to us!
Friday, May 17, 2019
This Day In Literary History
On May 17th, 1873, the legendary English writer Dorothy Richardson was born in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England. When she was seventeen, her father's financial problems threatened to plunge the family into poverty, so she left school to work.
A few years later, Dorothy's father went bankrupt, and her mother fell into a deep depression. Dorothy quit her job as a governess to take care of her mother, but the distraught woman committed suicide later that year.
After her mother's death, Dorothy moved to Bloomsbury, London, and took a job as receptionist, secretary, and assistant to a dental surgeon. When she wasn't working, she earned extra money writing essays and reviews and hung out with the Bloomsbury Set.
The Bloomsbury Set was a famous circle of libertine writers, artists, critics, and intellectuals who lived and / or worked in Bloomsbury. The group included such legendary writers as Leonard and Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey, E.M. Forster, and H.G. Wells.
Dorothy struck up a close friendship with H.G. Wells, which culminated in a brief and torrid affair with the married writer. She became pregnant with his baby. He offered to help her raise the child.
Dorothy, a determined feminist, broke ties with Wells and decided to raise the baby herself - a daring, controversial act for an unmarried woman in Edwardian England. Unfortunately, she suffered a miscarriage.
After losing her baby, Dorothy moved to Sussex, where she continued with her writing career, earning her living as a freelance writer and journalist. She began work on a novel - a huge epic autobiographical novel that would be published in a series of thirteen volumes.
She also found a new love, marrying Alan Odle, a surrealist painter fifteen years her junior best known for his illustrations for Voltaire's classic novel Candide and Mark Twain's notorious, raunchy comic tale, 1601.
The first volume of Dorothy Richardson's classic novel Pilgrimage, titled Pointed Roofs, was published in 1915. It was a breakthrough novel that bent the established rules of grammar, punctuation, and sentence length to the breaking point.
In a review of Painted Roofs published in 1918, the English writer and critic May Sinclair coined a new term to describe Dorothy Richardson's innovative writing style: stream of consciousness.
Dorothy didn't care for that term. The term she used to describe her writing style was interior monologue. Although her Pilgrimage wouldn't make her famous during her lifetime, it has since been recognized as one of the all time great works of early 20th century English literature.
Pilgrimage would not only inspire her contemporaries such as James Joyce and Marcel Proust, but future generations of writers as well. Her pioneering stream of consciousness writing style is still employed today.
Dorothy Richardson continued working as a freelance writer, as her novel wasn't a huge commercial success. She also wrote short stories, poetry, and non-fiction. Her marriage would be a happy one; she remained with Alan Odle until he died in 1947. She died in 1957 at the age of 84.
She may have been the least famous writer in the Bloomsbury Set, but her contribution to modern literature was legendary.
Quote Of The Day
"You think Christianity is favorable to women? On the contrary. It is the Christian countries that have produced the prostitute and the most vile estimations of women in the world." - Dorothy Richardson
Today's video features a complete reading of Pointed Roofs, the first volume of Dorothy Richardson's epic multi volume novel, Pilgrimage. Enjoy!
Thursday, May 16, 2019
This Day In Literary History
On May 16th, 1939, The Day of the Locust, the classic final novel by the famous American writer Nathanael West was published.
Although he never achieved significant commercial success as a writer during his short life, today he is rightfully recognized as one of the greatest American novelists of the 1930s.
West, born Nathan Weinstein in New York City, like many fiction writers of the 1930s, worked as a Hollywood screenwriter. He had made a name for himself as a novelist with his dark, surreal tales of Depression-era America, such as Miss Lonelyhearts (1933) and A Cool Million (1934).
In 1939, the year that The Day of the Locust was published, the stifling Production Code was in effect in Hollywood, and movies were considered clean, wholesome entertainment. In West's classic novel, he explores the dark side of the Dream Factory.
The characters include Tod Hackett, a talented young artist who has come to Hollywood to work as a set painter. He does this to support himself until he becomes a famous artist. Faye Greener is a beautiful young aspiring actress.
Faye's father, Harry Greener, is an aging, failed actor and former vaudeville comic who earns a meager living as a door to door salesman. Despite all the doors slammed in his face, Harry, the ultimate huckster, pushes on, oblivious to the effects of his job on his frail health.
Homer Simpson (yes, that's really his name) is a good natured oaf who's not very bright. Also a neurotic depressive, he has come to California for reasons of health. The poor, pathetic Simpson will become the most tragic character in this dark and grotesque story.
Other memorable characters include Abe Kusich, a conceited midget actor with a huge chip on his little shoulder, and Adore Loomis, an obnoxious eight-year-old aspiring child star with a talent for blues singing.
Adore's mother - the ultimate stage mother - is so ruthlessly ambitious (and demented) that she passes him off as a girl, hoping that he'll become the next Shirley Temple.
The price of stardom - the depths one would sink to in Hollywood in order to reach the height of success - is one of the main themes of the novel. Another theme is the garishness of excess.
One film producer keeps a lifelike, life sized dead horse made of rubber on the bottom of his swimming pool. Mrs. Jenning, a retired silent film star, runs a brothel, where she also screens pornographic films for her guests.
Faye Greener is the catalyst for the tragic undercurrent of the story that drives it to a shocking and brutal conclusion. She's a thoroughly amoral young woman, a manipulative sociopath willing to do anything and use anyone to get what she wants.
Of course, Tod ends up falling in love with her, but grudgingly settles for friendship, recognizing her amoral nature. He fantasizes about raping Faye or physically harming her in other ways as both a subconscious attack on her immorality and an attempt to suppress his secret desire to be just like her.
Homer Simpson also falls in love with Faye, but unlike the more realistic Tod, the poor, deluded Homer actually dreams of marrying Faye, settling down, and starting a family with her.
When he accidentally discovers Faye having casual sex with a would-be actor called Miguel the Mexican, his delusion is suddenly shattered. Homer decides to return to his Iowa hometown, but never does.
In the novel's violent, surreal ending, Homer wanders the streets in a state of shock and happens upon a crowd gathering outside a theater for a major movie premiere. While he stares blankly at the crowd, Adore Loomis appears and teases him yet again.
Homer's mind finally snaps, and in the novel's most shocking scene, he literally stomps the child to death. When the crowd sees Homer attacking Adore, they riot and descend on him like a plague of locusts, killing him.Tod tries to save Homer, but gets lost in the milling throng.
The Day of the Locust received mixed reviews when it was published. It is now recognized as Nathanael West's greatest novel. Sadly, it would be his last. The year after it was published, West and his wife Eileen were killed in a car accident. He was 37 years old and she 26.
The Day of the Locust was adapted as an acclaimed feature film in 1975. Directed by John Schlesinger with a screenplay by Waldo Salt, the film starred William Atherton as Tod Hackett, Donald Sutherland as Homer Simpson, and Karen Black as Faye Greener.
Burgess Meredith co-starred as Harry Greener, Billy Barty as Abe Kusich, and in a memorable supporting performance, Jackie Earle Haley as Adore Loomis.
Quote Of The Day
"Man spends a great deal of time making order out of chaos, yet insists that the emotions be disordered. I order my emotions. I am insane." - Nathanael West
Today's video features the original theatrical trailer for the acclaimed 1975 feature film adaptation of Nathanael West's classic novel, The Day of the Locust. Enjoy!
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
This Day In Literary History
On May 15th, 1890, the famous American writer Katherine Anne Porter was born. She was born Callie Russell Porter in Indian Creek, Texas. The fourth of five children, she was a descendant of the legendary frontiersman Daniel Boone. The famous writer O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) was her father's second cousin.
When Callie was two years old, her mother died of complications following the birth of her last child. Callie's father sent his children to live with his mother, and the children, especially Callie, adored their grandmother.
Seven years later, Callie's grandmother died suddenly. She and her siblings lived with various relatives or in rented rooms paid for by their father. At the age of 16, Callie ran off to marry her boyfriend John Henry Koontz, the son of a wealthy rancher.
In order to marry Koontz, Callie, a Methodist, had to convert to Catholicism, which she did. Her devout Catholic husband turned out to be an abusive drunk who once threw her down the stairs, breaking her ankle.
After suffering for nine years in a rotten marriage, Callie divorced her husband - a shocking thing for a woman to do in 1915. As part of her divorce decree, Callie had the court legally change her name to Katherine Anne Porter, which was the name of her beloved grandmother.
From there, Katherine fled Texas for Chicago, where she tried her hand at acting and singing, but that was cut short when she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. She spent two years in a TB sanitarium before it was discovered that she'd been misdiagnosed; she actually had bronchitis.
During her stay at the sanitarium, Katherine decided to become a writer. She began her writing career as a newspaper drama critic and gossip columnist. Then, during the 1918 flu pandemic, she contracted the virus and nearly died from it.
She was left in a frail state; her hair turned white and would remain white for the rest of her life. After regaining her health, Katherine moved to New York City's Greenwich Village, where she made her living as a ghostwriter and movie company publicist. She also wrote children's stories.
By 1920, she met some Mexican revolutionary leaders, including legendary painter Diego Rivera, and traveled to Mexico to cover the leftist revolution. She would split her time between Mexico and New York City, where she continued to write short stories and would become a master of the form.
One of her best known stories was The Jilting of Granny Weatherall. In it, the sick, elderly Granny lies on her deathbed. Her daughter Cornelia has been serving as her caregiver, but Granny considers herself a better housekeeper than Cornelia.
The delirious Granny is still obsessed with George, the man who jilted her at the altar when they were a young couple. She married her late husband John, and it was a happy marriage, but Granny never got over George and still loves him.
Meanwhile, she's visited by her priest, Father Connolly, whom she chides for being more interested in drinking tea and gossiping than in the welfare of her soul. She's also visited by her son, Jimmy.
What she really wants is to see her daughter Hapsy, who never comes to visit. It's suggested, but not directly implied, that Hapsy died at birth. Granny has a vision of Hapsy visiting her and holding a baby, but it's really another daughter, Lydia, who has come to visit.
Realizing that she's dying, Granny doesn't want to go yet and worries what will happen if she can't find Hapsy. She looks for a sign from God. No sign comes, and Granny, believing that she's been jilted again, dies in despair.
Katherine married her second husband, Ernest Stock, in 1926. The marriage would only last a year, ending when the unfaithful Stock gave her venereal disease. During both her marriages, she had tried to conceive children, only to suffer miscarriages and at least one stillbirth.
After divorcing Stock, she had a hysterectomy. During the 1930s, Katherine spent several years in Europe, continued writing short stories, and endured two more disastrous marriages. She continued to receive acclaim for her short story collections.
In the 1940s and 50s, she taught at several universities, including Stanford, the University of Michigan, and the University of Texas. Her very unconventional method of teaching endeared her to her students.
As a short story writer, Katherine Anne Porter loved to delve into the dark side of human nature. Though she was best known for her short stories, she also wrote four novellas (she hated the term novella) and one full length novel, which would become a classic.
Ship of Fools, published on April 1st, 1962, (April Fool's Day) took Porter over twenty years to write. She was never really satisfied with it, calling it "unwieldy" and "enormous."
The novel received mixed reviews at the time of its publication, but has since been recognized for its brilliance and prescient insight into the human condition. It was an existentialist character study rather than a standard plot driven story.
It's the summer of 1931, and a cruise ship has left Mexico, bound for Germany. The ship contains a wide variety of passengers. Many are German expatriates, but there is also a drunken lawyer, an American divorcee, a Spanish noblewoman, two Mexican Catholic priests, and others.
In following these characters, Porter explores the nature of nationalism, racism, xenophobia, and human frailty in general as she examines the attitudes that would enable Hitler to come to power, maintain dictatorial control, and plunge Europe into a devastating war. The story is full of passion, duplicity, and treachery.
Ship of Fools became the best selling novel of 1962 and a Book of the Month Club selection. The movie rights were snapped up immediately for $500,000 - the equivalent of nearly four million dollars in today's money. It provided Katherine with financial security for the rest of her life.
The feature film adaptation of Ship of Fools premiered in July of 1965. It was directed by Stanley Kramer, best known for classic films such as The Defiant Ones (1958), On The Beach (1959), and Judgement At Nuremberg (1961).
Featuring a screenplay by Abby Mann, Ship of Fools starred Vivien Leigh in her last film role. The film won an Oscar for Best Cinematography and was nominated for several other Academy Awards. It is rightfully considered one of the most acclaimed films of the 1960s.
In 1965, The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter was published. It would win the author a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Twelve years later, in 1977, Porter, then 87 years old, published her last book, The Never-Ending Wrong.
The Never-Ending Wrong was a work of nonfiction - an account of the infamous trial and execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, which Porter had protested against when it took place fifty years earlier.
Sacco and Vanzetti were two Italian immigrant anarchists who had been tried, convicted, and executed for robbery and murder in Massachusetts. Their politically charged trial was tainted by racism and malicious prosecution, including coerced false testimony. It remains controversial to this day.
Katherine Anne Porter died in 1980 at the age of 90.
Quote Of The Day
“A story is like something you wind out of yourself. Like a spider, it is a web you weave, and you love your story like a child.” - Katherine Anne Porter
Today's video features Katherine Anne Porter being interviewed by James Day on the 1970s PBS TV show, Day At Night. Enjoy!
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
This Day In Literary History
On May 14th, 1962, A Clockwork Orange, the classic novel by the famous English writer Anthony Burgess, was published in London. The title comes from the British slang expression, "queer as a clockwork orange."
An antifascist parable set in a dystopic England of the future, it examined a major problem facing Britain at the time of its publication - a huge rise in juvenile delinquency and the government's inability to deal with it constructively.
The novel is narrated by its main character, Alex, who refers to himself as "Alexander the Large." A highly intelligent but psychopathic teenager, he leads the Droogs, a violent street gang comprised of his friends Pete, Georgie, and Dim. Alex introduces everyone and sets the scene in this unforgettable opening paragraph:
There was me, that is Alex, and my three Droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really Dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry. The Korova Milkbar was a milk-plus mesto, and you may, O my brothers, have forgotten what these mestos were like, things changing so skorry these days and everybody very quick to forget, newspapers not being read much, neither. Well, what they sold there was milk plus something else. They had no licence for selling liquor, but there was no law yet against prodding some of the new veshches which they used to put into the old moloko, so you could peet it with vellocet or synthmesc or drencrom or one or two other veshches which would give you a nice quiet horrorshow fifteen minutes admiring Bog and All His Holy Angels And Saints in your left shoe with lights bursting all over your mozg. Or you could peet milk with knives in it, as we used to say, this would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of dirty twenty-to-one, and that was what we were peeting this evening I'm starting off the story with.
The dazzling poetic prose is written in Nadsat, a language invented by Anthony Burgess for this novel. It's a dialect that combines proper English with British and Russian slang words and phrases. Alex speaks this lyrical language as he tells his horrific story.
The novel opens with Alex and his gang at a milk bar, where they drink drugged milk to get themselves high and ready for committing random acts of violence. First, they gleefully beat an old, homeless drunkard. One night, while joyriding in a stolen car, the gang breaks into an isolated cottage.
There they terrorize the occupants, beating the husband and raping his wife. When he's not out with his gang, Alex passes the time in his dreary home, escaping his poor excuse for parents by blasting the works of his favorite composer, "Ludwig Van," (Beethoven) and masturbating to violent sexual fantasies.
When Georgie challenges Alex for leadership of the gang, he puts down the rebellion by beating Georgie in a fight and slashing open Dim's hand. Then he takes them out for drinks at the milk bar.
Georgie and Dim have had enough, but Alex demands that the gang follow through with Georgie's plan for a "man-sized" job and rob a rich old woman who lives alone. The robbery is botched when the old woman calls the police - but not before she is assaulted and knocked unconscious.
The gang then turns on Alex, attacking him and leaving him to take the fall when the police arrive. The old woman later dies of her injuries and Alex is accused of murder.
After spending a couple of years in prison, Alex becomes an involuntary participant in an experimental rehabilitation procedure called the Ludovico Technique, which is supposed to remove all violent and criminal impulses from the human psyche.
The prison chaplain is opposed to the Ludovico Technique. He argues that conscious, willing moral choice is a necessary component of humanity. Nevertheless, Alex is forced to undergo the procedure.
For two weeks, his eyes are wired open and he is forced to watch violent images on a screen while being given a drug that induces extreme nausea. It's basically a horrific form of aversion therapy.
When Alex recognizes the soundtrack to the violent film presentation as Beethoven's fifth symphony, he begs the doctors to turn off the sound, telling them that's a sin to take away his love of music, and Beethoven never did anything wrong. They refuse.
After the procedure is completed, Alex is brought before an audience of prison and government officials and declared successfully rehabilitated. To demonstrate this, they show how Alex is unable to react with violence even in self defense, and becomes crippled by extreme nausea when sexually aroused.
The outraged prison chaplain again protests the Ludovico Technique, accusing the state of taking away Alex's God-given ability to choose good over evil. "Padre," a government official replies, "There are subtleties. The point is that it works."
Alex is released from prison, but his life plunges into a downward spiral. He finds that the Ludovico Technique has rendered him physically unable to listen to his Beethoven and unable to defend himself from attack. He is promptly beaten up by a former victim.
The police arrive, and they turn out to be Alex's former gang member Dim and former rival gang leader Billyboy. They beat him savagely and leave him for dead. Later, Alex is befriended by a political activist who turns out to be the man whose wife Alex had raped during the home invasion.
When the activist finally recognizes Alex as the gang leader, he tortures him with the classical music he once loved. His life destroyed by the therapy that was supposed to make him a model citizen, a desperate Alex attempts suicide and survives.
A huge scandal erupts and the embarrassed government officials agree to reverse the Ludovico Technique in order to quell the bad publicity. Afterward, they offer Alex a cushy job at a high salary, but he looks forward to returning to his violent ways.
He forms a new gang, but after watching them beat a stranger, Alex finds that he has tired of violence. He contemplates giving up gang life, becoming a productive citizen, and doing what he secretly always wanted to do - start a family of his own. He wonders if his children would inherit the violent tendencies he once had.
In the U.S. first edition of the novel, the last chapter was cut. The publisher wanted the story to end on a dark note, with Alex looking forward to resuming his violent ways. He believed that the original UK edition ending, with Alex deciding on his own to reform, was unrealistic.
Anthony Burgess resisted the idea at first, but gave in because he needed the money. He would always regret allowing the final chapter of A Clockwork Orange to be cut from the U.S. edition. In America, the novel would not be published in its original version until 1986.
When legendary British filmmaker Stanley Kubrick adapted it as an acclaimed feature film in 1971, he based his screenplay on the U.S. first edition of the novel, ending the film on a dark note, with Alex smirking wickedly and saying, "They cured me all right!"
A huge success at the box office and widely praised by critics, A Clockwork Orange was one of the few X-rated films to be nominated for Academy Awards. The movie did have its detractors, due to its relentlessly dark tone and violence.
Passed uncut for release in the UK, the film sparked outrage when several violent juvenile offenders claimed that their crimes were inspired by it. After he and his family received death threats and their home was picketed, Stanley Kubrick withdrew the film from circulation in the UK, where it would remain out of print until after Kubrick's death in 1999.
I've read both versions of the novel, and I prefer the U.S. first edition because its grim ending really brings home the main theme of the novel - that fascism is an evil far worse than the societal ills it promises to cure. The cut final chapter does make for interesting reading, though.
Today, both editions of A Clockwork Orange are available in the U.S., and the novel remains a classic work of literature.
Quote Of The Day
"It seems priggish or pollyannaish to deny that my intention in writing the work was to titillate the nastier propensities of my readers. My own healthy inheritance of original sin comes out in the book and I enjoyed raping and ripping by proxy. It is the novelist’s innate cowardice that makes him depute to imaginary personalities the sins that he is too cautious to commit for himself." - Anthony Burgess on A Clockwork Orange
Today's video features a 1971 interview with Anthony Burgess and Malcolm McDowell, who starred in the film adaptation of Burgess's classic novel, A Clockwork Orange. Enjoy!