Wednesday, September 21, 2011

+35 Tome of Corruption

...and with that appropriately nerdy (and mostly unrelated to my topic) title, we have nowhere to go but up, quality-wise.

I recently finished A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. It has 21 chapters. Apparently the 21st chapter wasn't really ever published in America, because the American publisher didn't like the last chapter. Then the movie came out, and it omitted the positive ending as well. So for, like, forty years, The American Consumer labored under the illusion that A Clockwork Orange has 20 chapters.

Big whoop, right? Actually, yes. Because if the book ends with Chapter 20, it's a pretty depressing statement on human depravity. SPOILER (highlight): Chapter 20 ends with the "reformed" criminal returning to his crime-filled ways.

If it ends with Chapter 21, it becomes a hopeful "boys-will-be-boys" sermon about the fundamental good in humankind. SPOILER (highlight): Chapter 21 ends with the criminal, now a few years older, realizing that crime is boring and he'd rather have a son.

We all know that ART! is dark and dreary and anti-everything. So when a writer in the sixties produces a book about how horrible people really are, it's ART!

But if that writer had produced a book about how people are really good, and you just have to give them time to sort out their psychological disorder, would it have been viewed as ART!?

Perhaps not.

A Clockwork Orange is considered a dystopian classic. Would it have gained the following it now enjoys were the final chapter more accessible?

Or, to put my question in more empirical terms, is ART! arbitrarily constructed to feed the rebellious tendency in the human heart?

Long live cliffhangers...!

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