You must have had that experience when you think you have read a book, in fact feel positive about it, but cannot remember a great deal about it. That’s the case for me with A Clockwork Orange and as a result it seemed to be a good lunchtime read and a case of nailing it for once and for all.
The problem with any book where you have seen the movie is that you have mental pictures already implanted that make it difficult to lose yourself in the narrative on the written page. It is made slightly easier here though as a consequence of the concentration you have to put in to keep up with the language. Also unlike the film, where Malcolm McDowell is cast as some sort of anti-hero, its pretty impossible to have any feelings of affection towards Alex and his stooges.
The first couple of chapters set the scene of members of the youth culture that have rejected the mainstream. They look for thrills from violence, drugs and sex and are prepared to take whatever they want.
So things start in a milk bar where the drinks can be laced to set you up for a night of violence and then the four members of Alex’s gang go out beating up someone leaving the library, a tramp, a rival gang, then beating up and robbing the owners of a shop before going one step further. They steal a car and drive out to a village they barge in on a writer and his wife, raping her, and destroying the book he was working on.
“Then I looked at its top sheet, and there was a name – A CLOCKWORK ORANGE – and I said: ‘That’s a fair gloopy title. Who ever heard of a clockwork orange?’.”
You know some sort of justice is waiting in the wings for Alex and co. but will it mean anything to people who quite clearly don’t care?