Saturday, February 25, 2006

If you read nothing else this weekend ...

... read Theodore Dalrymple on Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange: A Prophetic and Violent Masterpiece. What Dalrymple says about Britain is rather disturbing. Maxine, say it ain't so!


  1. I remember reading the book aroun 1969, the year after I graduated. I don't remember being shocked by the premise it was based on.

    Even today, the children for the most part are a product of their upbringing...timeout.....I'll timeout the'll take them a week to wake up!

    They are allowed to do anything they want and exhibit any kind of behavior they want to and this self-esteem issue...not letting anyone be a looser! Well, check it out...real life ain't fair...get used to it! Soembody has to lose!

  2. I read the article as you ask, Frank. To answer your question, I agree with Bonnie. To Dalrymple, very well known for his (rather extreme, jaundiced) view of contemporary society, I say "you find what you look for". I don't disagree with some of the vignettes he mentions, but if you look for the good stuff you'll find that too!
    He also uses many disingenuous arguments, eg he says that not many criminals are in jail over 35. But, if this is true, it doesn't mean that people over 35 don't commit crimes. They could have learned to cover their tracks better.
    I was also interested in his discussion of Clockwork Orange, which like Bonnie I read many years ago.
    One aspect Dalrymple does not cover, but which was very important to Burgess at the time, was to show what could happen if a communist philosophy (in this case, Russian) took over the world -- or Britain anyway. The book is written in a Soviet Russian-British argot. Burgess was very interested in language and its absorption into cultural attitutes; this is integral to Clockwork Orange.
    Another aspect is that Kubrick himself was disgusted by the reaction to the movie (maybe even the violent event described briefly by Dalrymple, which I recall reading about at the time), and withdrew it from the cinemas. It was not released on video or DVD or re-shown at cinemas until after his death (or thereabouts).

    But Dalrymple is more interested in using CO to make comments about modern society as he sees it. Dalrymple is very well known for these views, he wrote a column in the Spectator for many years about his experiences as a doctor and a prison doctor. It was a very funny column, but very much that of a jaundiced person (maybe with reason).

    At the end of the day, bring up your children well, respect them, teach them to look for the best and to love their neighbours, to leave the world a better place than they found it, cross your fingers -- that's about all anyone can do, really. As Dalrymple says (quoting Shakespeare) there always was violence, but I am sure overall far less now than there was in more ancient history. There is a lowest common denominator in society and there always will be, but we don't have to either join it or give up and think that it has taken over.

    In short, I am not with Dalrymple!