“A Clockwork Orange”: The state calls its own violence law, but that of the individual – crime.

As you will see in a little bit, dear reader, Max Stirner’s words ring quite true, for this one novel at least. (And perhaps with reality, too?)

First published in 1962 – and written in just three weeks(!), according to the author – the story takes place in an English city from the near future. The narrator and protagonist is Alex, a fifteen-year-old leader of a gang. Through his eyes, we get led into the first part of the book, and namely into a milk bar called the ‘Korova’ – one of the first examples of the specific Anglo-Russian slang in the book. There, Alex is sitting with his friends and members of his gang among three young girls and an elderly man who seems to be rambling drunkenly. Alex feels ready to leave the bar, and as he yells to his friends to get out, he slaps the man. It’s only the beginning, and you might not take much notice of it – but this action is the poisonous bud of the horrors that are about to blossom.

Only a few lines further down Alex makes his plans clear. He and his friends are looking for a small joke for the night.

They run into a man dressed like a teacher and start messing with him, taking his books and tearing them apart, then grabbing him and tearing his teeth out and punching him – and the first chapter ends with them stealing from a “sweets and cancers” shop and beating up the staff. They then beat up a beggar and come across a rival gang which they engage in a fight with. They steal a car and go joyriding (driving it with no aim other than the sheer pleasure of it), getting into a fight or two on their way before arriving at a cottage. Alex’s friends beat up the writer who lives there while Alex rapes his wife. (Curiously enough, said writer is working on a script titled “A Clockwork Orange”, which Alex tears to pieces.) The next day, after skipping school, he rapes two more girls and then takes a nap as if nothing has happened. After a challenge for his leadership, he slashes Dim’s hand and fights with Georgie, and they head for the burglary of an wealthy elderly woman’s home. When he returns to his friends, having knocked her unconscious, Alex gets beaten by Dim as revenge and left for the police to find.

The second part of the book tells about Alex’s fourteen years in prison. Two of them fly by, and he picks up a job. He has not changed much, reading parts of the Bible only to enjoy the violence in them and beating up a cellmate to death. That action of his is what leads him to undergo a behavioural modification, the Ludovico technique, and gets freed from the rest of his sentence. The Ludovico technique itself is not entirely to blame, although it is quite gruesome and involves watching films full of violence while taking drugs that induce nausea at the sight of said violence. Simply thinking of violence starts to make him feel ill. While this takes away his right to have free will, it also leaves him a free man, and he leaves prison.

In the third part, Alex returns home, only to find his parents have left a lodger live in his room. He wanders the streets, homeless, and revenge from those he has wronged in part one befalls him – first a beating at the hands of the old scholar, then one at his ex-friend Dim and the ex-leader of the rival gang, and finally he arrives at the door of the writer he once brutalised. The writer does not recognise Alex at first, but the main character later reveals he had been the leader of the gang that raped his wife and beat him up, and gets locked up in a bedroom on a higher floor by the writer and his friends, the classical music he now hates spilling from the lower floor. He gets driven nearly insane by the music and tries to end his life with a jump from the window.

When he comes to, Alex is in a hospital, being approached by the trio, from whose apartment he tried to spring to his death. His words and actions hint at his violence having returned, as well as various tests. Alex gets many photos taken of him and is finally left all alone with his favourite music, Beethoven’s Ninth symphony, thinking, “I was cured alright.”

The American version of the book – much like Stanley Kubrick’s film – ends here, on a disturbing, pessimistic note. But the British version continues the story a little more, adding to it in its own way – Alex has new friends, and while getting ready for going out with them, he runs into Pete, who has gotten better and has a wife. Alex starts to think about a new life, one without a violence where he has a normal life and a wife and children – a beam of hope for a man whose youth has been wasted away on violence.

The novel explores a few more things. Throughout the story, the gap between young and elderly people is made starker and starker, with young people using different clothes (Alex and his droogs are dressed in white), and their own slang, Nadsat, to exclude outsiders, in a fit of youthful riot. Adults grow afraid of younger people and grow anxious around them, the younger taking refusal as a challenge to their egos. And it makes sense: the revolt of the young is against old age, for it is contemptuous.
And not just that. As adults have been scared away from their position of power, younger people have now reached out to it and act as though they are older. The girls Alex rapes all dress and put on make-up, which shows their desire for maturity.
Youth is wild. But, after it, maturity sets in, slowly but surely. Though, is everyone’s youth this wild? And if so, how do we find our way back to peace in such wild years as those when we feel indestructible?

Last, but not least, I want to pay attention to the title of the book. After reading about the novel on a thousand sites, I have found one that describes it best – and that’s none other site than the one dedicated to Anthony Burgess:

“The title of the novel, A Clockwork Orange, derived from, Burgess claimed, ‘ a phrase which I heard many years ago and so fell in love with, I wanted to use it [as] the title of the book. But the phrase itself I did not make up. The phrase “as queer as a clockwork orange” is good old East London slang and it didn’t seem necessary to explain it. Now, obviously, I have to give it an extra meaning. I’ve implied an extra dimension. I’ve implied a junction of the organic, the lively, the sweet — in other words, life, the orange — and the mechanical, the cold, the disciplined. I’ve brought them together in a kind of oxymoron’. Like many of Burgess’s proclamations, this origin of ‘clockwork orange’ is rather hard to back up. It is not recorded in any dictionaries of London slang, and some linguists believe that the phrase originated in Liverpool. It is apparent that there are no recorded citations of the phrase before the novel was published in 1962, and the only authority for its usage is Burgess himself. It is possible that Burgess is misremembering the genuine Cockney phrase ‘All Lombard Street to a china orange’, or that he simply made it up.”

While the violence in Alex’s deeds and thoughts might be horrendous, even more so when seen in the film, the book remains a magnificent masterpiece, not just to me, but, I’m sure, to many more – as well as a true gem in the crown of dystopian literature.

“Скелиг” – където мистичното и детското се срещат

От доста отдавна не бях чела книга на български, дори и в превод от друг език… както и книга за деца или пък за подрастващи. Признавам си – вкусът ми е изключително разнообразен, независимо дали става въпрос за някакъв вид изкуство като литературата или музиката, за мода или за ястия. Старая се и да не залитам в крайности.

Да, имам любими книги, към които бих се връщала отново и отново; те са много. Има и други, които не са ми допаднали толкова, както и такива, които все още не мога да надвия себе си и да прочета. Но стига приказки – да си дойдем на думата. Харесвам и книги за деца. И сега ще ви разкажа за тази.

Десетгодишният Майкъл и семейството му се нанасят в нов дом, порутена къща със стар гараж. Родителите му са притеснени и разтревожени, защото наскоро са открили, че сестричката му е била родена няколко месеца по-рано, отколкото е трябвало, и има проблем със сърцето, заради който може да умре.

Докато проучва къщата и гаража, Майкъл се натъква на странно създание, скрито сред кутиите, праха и развалините. Първоначално момчето решава, че създанието е бездомен човек, и решава да му занесе храна и да се погрижи за него. Човекът е сприхав и сопнат и настоява да му се донесе аспирин, две ястия от менюто на китайския ресторант зад ъгъла, и кафяв ейл (традиционна английска бира с характерен тъмнокафяв цвят).

За да е сигурен, че не си въобразява, че човекът съществува, Майкъл взима със себе си новата си приятелка Мина – съседско момиче от отсрещната къща. И макар че мненията им се различават, защото Майкъл ходи на училище, а Мина се обучава у дома си, те намират лесно общ език и се сближават.

Майкъл решава, че ще й се довери – все пак те прекарват известно време заедно, рисувайки и говорейки си и споделяйки компанията на другия – и я води при Скелиг. И макар и приятелите на Майкъл да му се смеят, задето прекарва толкова много време с Мина, тя и Майкъл се стараят да запазят съществуването на Скелиг в тайна.

“Скелиг” за мен беше история от нов жанр. Да, историята беше богата на елементи от истинския свят, който ни заобикаля. Но имаше и достатъчно фантастични елементи в себе си, и то без да се обясняват те до смърт. Имаше лека загадка; какво точно същество е Скелиг ние така и не научих. Но пък успях да си го представя достатъчно ясно. И мисля, че точно там се крие и чара на историята, да опишеш нещата точно толкова добре, че читателят сам да дпоълни нужното с помощта на фантазията си. :))

“Fight Club” – I’ve broken the first rule.

If you have read the book or seen the film, you will know exactly what I am talking about. *wink* And if not? Well, sit down, then. It’s storytime… albeit a story told from an unreliable narrator (one of the tropes I find the most curious and interesting).

From the very first page, we are introduced to our two main characters, the unnamed protagonist and Tyler Durden, a waiter. The duo finds themselves on top of a building, a scene hinting at the way the novel is about to end – and right afterwards, we get drawn into the protagonist’s story.

In the beginning, it puzzled me. After I read the book, in a post-having-seen-the-movie state, I understood. The narrator is nameless. But the main characters in his story aren’t. And neither is the reason for his story to unravel, insomnia, that seemingly appears two years prior to the beginning of his story. But what would be the reasons a person with such a coordinated, mundane, normal – perhaps boring, even – job as that of a product recall coordinator, could have insomnia?

Nevertheless, the insomnia is a fact. A torture. But also the trigger of our story. Our main charcter’sdoctor tells him that if he wants to see real pain, he should try going to a support group.And it is exactly what he does. Visits to support groups for testicular cancer, to support groups for guided meditation. Support groups for tuberculosis. He does not have any of those illnesses – but he feels better after visiting them and crying to let go of his emotions. Thus, he sleeps better, too. Or at least he does until he meets another liar, Marla Singer, with weirder reasons to go to support groups: to feel close to death.

As the meeting has left him quite shaken, the narrator visits car accident sites, trying to determine whether the cars his company makes could have parts in them that are prone to make accidents easier, and tries to take his mind off of support groups. Burned out from travelling here and there, he then decides to take a break. And it’s on that break that he meets Tyler Durden, our third most important character, who gives him his phone number.

When he comes back home, the narrator finds his condominium destroyed in a suspicious explosion. His first reaction is to call Tyler, and they meet in a bar. They end up drinking a lot and Tyler allows the narrator to move in with him, but on one condition – that he will hit him as hard as he can. They start fighting and realise they like it, because it makes them feel alive and “real”. And thus, it begins.

The two continue fighting in parking lots and in bars, attracting the attention of other men, and the secret society of the fight club gets eight rules, two of them stating that ‘you do not talk about fight club!’. Fight club gains more and more members – more and more men who have gotten in touch with how visceral reality is and have rediscovered their masculinity. The narrator starts noticing people with bruises over their faces, people who have obviously also taken part of fight club.

One night the Narrator has a dream that he is having sex with Marla Singer. The next morning Tyler tells him that he met Marla last night and the two of them had sex. The Narrator is angered. Marla was the reason he couldn’t enjoy the support groups, and she has invaded his home life with Tyler too. With Marla in the picture, he will also get less of Tyler’s attention. He comes home every day from work to hear Marla and Tyler having sex and calling each other names.

Tyler receives a call at his house from Marla, and goes to Marla’s hotel. Following this incident, Tyler and Marla begin having loud, frequent sex in the house, irritating the Narrator. Tyler tells the Narrator not to mention him in front of Marla, or the Narrator will never see Tyler again. Tyler also shows the Narrator his other source of income: making soap and selling it to fancy department stores. During one soap-making session, Tyler kisses the Narrator’s hand and pours lye it, giving him a scar that looks like Tyler’s kiss. Tyler insists that he’s trying to get the Narrator to embrace death and pain so that he can find enlightenment.

Marla regularly stops by Tyler’s house to drop off shipments of collagen, removed from her mother’s aging body by liposuction. Secretly Tyler converts the collagen into beautiful, creamy bars of soap, which he sells for a big profit—when Marla finds out, she’s furious. The Narrator notices that he, Tyler, and Marla are never in the same room together.

Marla calls the Narrator and asks him to examine her for breast cancer; they learn that she does have breast cancer, and afterwards, Marla begins attending cancer support groups for real. Meanwhile, the police call the Narrator and tell him that they suspect that someone—possibly the Narrator himself—blew up his condominium. Meanwhile, fight club becomes bigger and bigger, to the point where other chapters spring up across the country.

Tyler and the Narrator decide that they need to blackmail their bosses for the civil disobedience they have been committing on the job. After ensuring checks will continue to be sent to them even though they won’t be working, they are able to focus all their time on fight club. The Narrator learns that Bob has also joined fight club and that there are chapters of fight club that he didn’t even know about.

Tyler decides to escalate his civil disobedience into a larger project called Project Mayhem. He recruits fight club members to join and begins amassing a large following. He hands out homework assignments for the members, including the Narrator. After a while, Tyler suddenly disappears. The Narrator, confused, tries to track down Tyler by going to different bars and clubs. Each time, the bartenders address him as “Sir.” Eventually, the Narrator realizes the truth: everyone thinks that he is Tyler Durden. The Narrator calls Marla and she, too, addresses him as Tyler. Suddenly, Tyler appears before the Narrator and explains that he’s the Narrator’s alter ego. He and the Narrator share the same body, but Tyler is braver and more charismatic than the Narrator—he’s The Narrator’s unconscious, the wish fulfillment of his repressed desires. The Narrator has been the one having sex with Marla, organizing Project Mayhem missions, and converting human fat into soap and explosives. The Narrator, frightened of what he’s becoming, tells Marla the truth.

Tyler “returns” and is upset with the Narrator for discussing him with Marla behind his back. Project Mayhem has begun to take on more extreme assignments and is growing in its number of members. While on an assignment, Bob is killed by a police man. His death prompts the Narrator to try to shut down fight club, but he is thrown out by its members instead.

Upon arriving at work one morning he discovers that his boss is dead. Worse yet, the Narrator knows Tyler is the one who killed him, which means that he killed him, though not wittingly. He boards a bus and tries to get away from the scene before he is spotted. The other passengers are all members of Project Mayhem. They tell him that they have orders to castrate him for trying to shut down fight club. They corner him and knock him out with ether.

The Narrator wakes up in the ruins of his old condominium, (he hasn’t been castrated). He considers committing suicide, but realizes that he cares about Marla and has to protect her. He finds Marla, who tells him that “he” (as Tyler) has murdered more people. The Narrator loses consciousness again, and finds himself at the top floor of a skyscraper (right where he was at the beginning of the novel). Tyler explains that “they” will now die in a blaze of glory.

Suddenly, Marla and the members of her cancer support group walk into the skyscraper, where they find the Narrator pointing a gun at himself. The timer for the bomb goes off, but nothing happens—the Narrator realizes that Tyler and Project Mayhem must have used faulty explosives. Nevertheless, he shoots himself in the face.

In the final chapter of the book, the Narrator reveals that his suicide attempt didn’t work: he shot through his neck and ear, leaving him injured but alive. Tyler hasn’t disturbed him since his suicide attempt. Marla writes him letters while he recovers in the hospital. Occasionally, members of Project Mayhem stop by and, addressing him as “Mr. Durden,” say that they’re eager for him to get back to work.

And, at the end, I’ll only say this: the book and the movie are on par with each other, and neither is better. Trust me. It doesn’t matter which you will consume first. Fight Club is no ordinary story.

And it will haunt you, I believe, as it did with me, for a long, long time.

“Charmcaster”: just what does Kellen’s life spiral into?

Is this the first review of 2020? Sure seems like it! – Though I do think it’ll be the only one for January, sadly. It’s exam time again, and for a while I’ll have to leave you with my rambles about ‘Charmcaster’ only. And oh boy, are there things I want to share with you about this one book…

Remember where we left Kellen in ‘Shadowblack’? Yeah, you most probably don’t, because it’s been a while since I last recalled them… but in any case, the story in ‘Charmcaster’ picks up six months later.

We find Kellen, his Argosi mentor Ferius Parfax and the squirrel cat Reichis crossing a desert, headed for the city of Gitabria and wishing to protect its people from the Jan’Tep’s scheming. They don’t have it that easy, though – especially thanks to the fact that Kellen is an outlaw spellslinger with a bounty on his head and only a single mage band to let him use his magic. That only draws bounty hunters on his trail… one of which causes a lightning storm. A storm not meant for them.

It turns out the mage is being hunted by a group of religious zealots, the Berabesq Faithful – and our trio try to protect them. Ferius gets badly hurt in the process, and it turns out that the hunted mage is no-one else but Nephenia, Kellen’s old friend (and crush). After Nephenia has safely joined Kellen and his mentor and squirrel cat, the three stop at a Traveller’s saloon to have Ferius’s wounds treated… in the most unexpected way, with a wild combo of gambling and booze, and Ferius leaves the saloon with a discordance card.

Once Ferius is feeling better, she and the other three make their way to Gitabria’s capital, Cazaran. They crash into an exhibition of Gitabria’s newest inventions, and among them is namely the little mechanical bird, painted on the discordance card. As beautiful and fascinating as it is that such a delicate object can come to life (of course, with the help of magic), there is also reason to worry – like Ferius realises – that it could also be used as a deadly weapon in a war, which the card hints at. Of course, an invention such as this is impossible to be kept under wraps, and a few parties have found out about it. Once again, a person from the inventor’s family becomes the target… and Kellen has set his sights on rescuing them.

Much like it has been in the previous book, “Charmcaster” also begins with our main characters getting attacked, them going on an adventure, in which lies an important quest, and new lands and peoples and cultures get introduced to the story. While this could be kind of boring to some readers, I did not mind it at all. Though I can definitely say that the magic in “Charmcaster” lies in character development and in the ties the characters have wound to one another. A past get explained, and so does Nephenia’s sudden meeting with Kellen and his friends. Reichis and Ferius are the same old, a sarcastic thieving squirrel cat and a traveller with a past shrouded in mystery… though that mystery unveils. And there’s a lot going on with Kellen, too. Not only can we watch him grow up and make harder and more complicated choices, but the shadowblack takes an even stronger hold of him, changing his thoughts and from them – his entire world.

Kellen’s next adventures await… in ‘Charmcaster’.

Bonus TBR!

За “Children of virtue and vengeance” вече стана ясно. Но, както се оказа, освен нея си набелязах още книги, за които смятам да ви дърдоря. Не само, че надхвърлих броя на планираните за четене книжки от миналата година… а трупам и още! Сигурно съм луда. Но пък какво е животът без малко лудост?

Без да се бавя, ето и останалите книги, които смятам да изгриза като мишка:

  1. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
  2. The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
  3. Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo
  4. Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo
  5. Kill the Farm Boy – Kevin Hearne & Delilah S. Dawson
  6. Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman
  7. Nevernight – Jay Kristoff
  8. Godsgrave – Jay Kristoff
  9. Darkdawn – Jay Kristoff

Няма да обещавам нищо… но мисля, че към бонус TBR купчинката по-късно ще се добавят още заглавия. Станах на 22, затова пък ще се опитам да прочета повече от 22 книги. Go, go, go, me! I can do it!

2020 Reading List!

Имам блога от цяла една година! Направо сама се изненадах. И е оцелял въпреки цялата ми заетост със следване, писане, срещи с приятели, музика и рисуване и прочее безкрайност от хобита, която имам… невероятно!

И така, тъй като миналата година се оказа успешна за писане на книжни рецензии, смятам да продължа и тази – разбира се, с нова купчина книги (и тайното обещание ако се сетя за някоя извън този списък по-късно, да пиша и за нея).

Та, да видим тазгодишните избраници на книжното ми сърце:

  1. Charmcaster – Sebasttien de Castell (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36302416-charmcaster)
  2. Soulbinder – Sebastien de Castell (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40031806-soulbinder)
  3. Queenslayer – Sebastien de Castell (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42525122-queenslayer)
  4. Crownbreaker – Sebastien de Castell (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45860014-crownbreaker)
  5. They Both Die at the End – Adam Silvera (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33385229-they-both-die-at-the-end?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=6d1zTDHF7q&rank=1)
  6. Sky in the Deep – Adrienne Young (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34726469-sky-in-the-deep?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=gousXzY48h&rank=1)
  7. The Girl the Sea Gave Back – Adrienne Young (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42867937-the-girl-the-sea-gave-back)
  8. A Long Way Down – Nick Hornby (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10073.A_Long_Way_Down?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=YLbf0JRsvb&rank=1)
  9. A Man Called Ove – Fredrick Backman (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18774964-a-man-called-ove?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=8myH4AbKcp&rank=1)
  10. The Hundred Year Old Man Who Jumped Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36578942-the-hundred-year-old-man-who-climbed-out-of-the-window-and-disappeared?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=gIAFiZHXeT&rank=1)
  11. The Ice Princess/Isprincessan – Camilla Lackberg (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7058405-the-ice-princess?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=Bf4d7Fflmm&rank=1)
  12. The Preacher/Predikanten – Camilla Lackberg (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9606002-the-preacher)
  13. The Stonecutter/Stenhuggaren – Camilla Lackberg (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8554156-the-stonecutter?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=JcvfADIZRj&rank=1)
  14. The Stranger – Camilla Lackberg (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1606783.Olycksf_geln)

Цели шест скандинавски книги! Е, нямаше как. Всеки, който знае, че следвам скандинавистика, може да предположи, че поне няколко книги от Севера ще ми попаднат в ръцете. За жанра не мога да гарантирам винаги – имам и едно фентъзи, пак шведско, за което обаче не знам дали ще ми остане време да пиша… а последните две книги от поредицата “Минелиум” на Стиг Ларшон, продължена от Давид Лагеркранс, са миотдавна в списъка. Но за да пиша за тях, трябва да пиша и за останалите четири. А съм сигурна, че има хора, които вече са го направили, и то много по-добре от мен.

Разбира се, ако новогодишното ви желание е да ме подкупите да пиша и за тях, приемам подкуп. Хранителен най-вече. И по едно капучино и малко сладки приказки.

“Dear Amy” – a book I was too *thrilled* to plow through

Pun intended.

Some people say, “leave the best for last”. Well, nope. That’s exactly NOT what I’ll be doing. And no, I am not going to be dropping a pile of harsh critics on this book, either. Simply put, I had to force myself through it; it wasn’t brilliant, but it wasn’t terrible, either. And I rarely give up on books, mind you that!

If your copy of this book is from Penguin Books, you’ll notice its front cover has its title printed to look like it has been written on a sheet of paper, with three crossed-through lines in black right below: “I’ve been kidnapped by a strange man. I don’t know what to do and nobody knows I’m here. I’m afraid that people will stop looking for me,”, and then, right underneath, written in red, with bigger letters, “Please find me”. Tickles your curiosity, eh?

For me, it was the change from third person in the prologue to first person for the rest of the novel. I might be a peculiar little devil, but if there’s one thing to know about the books I like, it’s that I prefer it when the story is either in the first person, or in the third. No mixes. No in-betweens. That irks. And most likely I’m not the only one who’s noticed.

Now, the story itself sounds pretty interesting. A girl, Bethan Avery, gets kidnapped and goes missing and then gets discovered some years later by our main character, the high-school teacher Margot Lewis, in a strange way, say, through letters addressed to a local advice column?… Yeah, I’m sure something in that last part of the sentence bugs you, too. On one hand, yes, this kind of idea definitely has it in itself for a fascinating story. But on the other hand… how the hell does Bethan have the time to send letters while kidnapped? And how is she even still alive?

At first, the pace was just as quick as needed, but after a while I felt like it kind of slowed down, and the story started splattering all over the place like fresh blood from a corpse left to be drained of it (excuse the colourful metaphor, but hey, we’re talking thrillers here! Murder, mystery, and all the arr!). The chapters were stretched and a touch longer than I would have liked them to be, and some moments felt like they were not realistic enough for a thriller. There were some confusing parts, and then there were some parts that just weren’t strong enough.

Most likely, though, the disappointment came, because I was too used to reading Gillian Flynn-esque thrillers – and, truth be told, I picked up “Dear Amy” immediately after reading “Sharp Objects” and could not help but notice the difference in the two writing styles, which, of course left me feeling weird about “Dear Amy”. My frequency was simply not tuned for this one book. And it is, probably, charming, in its weird little ways.