One hand clapping

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Knopf, 1972 - Fiction - 215 pages
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None of the usual linguistic fireworks but a very funny Burgess novel from the early 1960s. The narrator Janet knows she was let down by society when it failed to educate her. Not having a chance against the ideas of TV or conformists around her, she is shallow, submissive and unimaginative. Her husband Howard, cursed with a photographic memory and almost as ill-educated as Janet, tortures himself with observations of "the cheapness, vulgarity, silliness, brutishness, nastiness of everything and everybody." Burgess, in fact, regards Howard's position on the aridity of modern culture rather empty but he doesn't sympathize with Janet's "get it while you can" and "love the one you're with" orientation either. Anyway, the plot thickens when Howard wins a ton of pounds. Money exacerbates Howard's latent craziness and Janet has to demonstrate her will to survive: "All I want is to live a nice decent life, getting as much pleasure out of it as I can. That's what we're here for, when all's said and done". If you like Burgess - or like the themes of "how should we then live" and of food and its consumption - you'll probably like this lesser novel. 

Review: One Hand Clapping

User Review  - Wes Gardner - Goodreads

Boring, unchallenging, and the only twist in the ending is that the delivery is more banal than you're expecting. Read full review


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About the author (1972)

Anthony Burgess was born in 1917 in Manchester, England. He studied language at Xaverian College and Manchester University. He had originally applied for a degree in music, but was unable to pass the entrance exams. Burgess considered himself a composer first, one who later turned to literature. Burgess' first novel, A Vision of Battlements (1964), was based on his experiences serving in the British Army. He is perhaps best known for his novel A Clockwork Orange, which was later made into a movie by Stanley Kubrick. In addition to publishing several works of fiction, Burgess also published literary criticism and a linguistics primer. Some of his other titles include The Pianoplayers, This Man and Music, Enderby, The Kingdom of the Wicked, and Little Wilson and Big God. Burgess was living in Monaco when he died in 1993.

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