The Poetry of A Clockwork Orange

Fun &..., People, Writing | 23 Apr 2012

A Clockwork Orange Book CoverAudiobooks always have the potential to be better or worse than the original book, depending of course on how well the narrator does with the material.

A Clockwork Orange, the classic Anthony Burgess novel from 1962, has recently been re-recorded for Caedmon. The reading, performed by Tom Hollander, is a revelation, and one that Burgess would have loved. It is pure poetry from beginning to end.

Burgess, who died in 1993, was a prolific novelist, screenplay writer, and—you might be surprised to know—a respected composer of music. He had an ear, and that is what comes through in this recording of A Clockwork Orange. Three seconds in, and I was hooked by the rhythms, nuances and haunting beauty of Hollander’s voice, as well as the story itself; a mixture of violence, keen observation and humor in equal doses.

Burgess once told writer Raymond Federman (after a reading at the University of Buffalo sometime in the early 1970s) that he (Burgess) toured to read his works because “I need the money.” I can’t help but think that any performance by Burgess of this, his own work, would have fallen far short of Hollander’s stunningly beautiful rendition. The word ‘beautiful’ might seem out of place for a work so universally acknowledged for its violence, but beautiful it is.

Raymond Federman

Raymond Federman

Hollander also deftly handles the invented slang used by the Alex and the other young thugs in the story and turns it, as well, into pure poetry, much in the same way that the Hawaii parts of David Mitchel’s Cloud Atlas was so wonderfully performed in that great novel’s audiobook version.

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas

So…A Clockwork Orange: Don’t watch the movie. Don’t read the book. Instead, listen to Hollander’s rendition for Caedmon. Poetry in motion.

A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange

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Born on Long Island, New York in 1958, Larry Knipfing has spent the last 30+ years of his life living in Japan, and loving every minute of it! Kamakura, and now Yokohama both in Kanagawa Prefecture, have been his home for almost twenty years, and are the perfect places to be: hilly, situated on the water, and with amazing histories.

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