Other literary forms

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In addition to his novels, Anthony Burgess published eight works of literary criticism. He paid tribute to his self-confessed literary mentor, James Joyce, in such works as Re Joyce (1965) and Joysprick: An Introduction to the Language of James Joyce (1972). His book reviews and essays were collected in The Novel Now (1967), Urgent Copy: Literary Studies (1968), and Homage to Qwert Yuiop (1985; also known as But Do Blondes Prefer Gentlemen? Homage to Qwert Yuiop, and Other Writings, 1986). His fascination with language and with the lives of writers led to such works as Language Made Plain (1964), Shakespeare (1970), and Flame into Being: The Life and Work of D. H. Lawrence (1985). An autobiographical work, Little Wilson and Big God, was published in 1987 (part of which was republished in 1996 as Childhood), and a collection of short fiction, The Devil’s Mode, in 1989. A posthumous volume of his uncollected writings, One Man’s Chorus (1998), includes a variety of essays divided into sections on travel, contemporary life, literary criticism, and personality sketches.

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Achievements

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In his novels, Anthony Burgess extended the boundaries of English fiction. His inventive use of language, his use of symphonic forms and motifs, his rewriting of myths and legends, his examination of cultural clashes between the developing world and the West, and his pursuit of various ways to tell a story established him as one of the chief exemplars of postmodernism. His novels are studied in contemporary fiction courses, and he also achieved popular success with such works as A Clockwork Orange and Earthly Powers, for which he received the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger in 1981. Stanley Kubrick’s controversial film A Clockwork Orange (1971) further established Burgess’s popular reputation.

Discussion Topics

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Anthony Burgess reveals a great deal about his attitude toward women in his writing. Discuss the attitudes that he reveals.

What are the chief characteristics that Burgess’s characters reveal in love relationships?

Burgess is much concerned with such dichotomies as good and evil. Discuss the dichotomies that appear to motivate him most significantly.

How does Burgess use humor to appeal to general readers of his work?

Discuss Burgess’s attitude toward religion as revealed in his writing.

Bibliography

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Aggeler, Geoffrey. Anthony Burgess: The Artist as Novelist. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1979. The best and most accurately detailed study of work published in the first twenty years of Burgess’s career. Includes analysis of A Clockwork Orange, Napoleon Symphony, Enderby Outside, Inside Mr. Enderby, Nothing Like the Sun, and other novels.

Aggeler, Geoffrey, ed. Critical Essays on Anthony Burgess. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1986. A collection of well-regarded criticism on Burgess, with particular attention given to his “linguistic pyrotechnics.” Aggeler’s introduction presents an overview of Burgess’s work and discussion of his novels, followed by a Paris Review interview with Burgess.

Biswell, Andrew. The Real Life of Anthony Burgess. London: Picador, 2005. Well-researched biography of Burgess explores his personal life, including his heavy drinking and sexual promiscuity. His most famous novel, A Clockwork Orange, is also discussed, along with Burgess’s common themes of corruption, sin, and human beings’ capacity for evil.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Anthony Burgess. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. A compilation of fine critical essays, including an essay by the eminent critic of James Joyce, Robert Martin Adams, who considers Joyce’s influence on Burgess. In the introduction, Bloom presents his views on Burgess’s writing, citing Inside Mr. Enderby as one of the most underrated English novels of the late twentieth century.

Boytinck, Paul W. Anthony Burgess: An Annotated Bibliography and Reference Guide. New York: Garland, 1985. A checklist of Burgess’s works up to 1984, including bibliographical background on Burgess and extracts from reviews, essays, and articles on his work. An excellent and informative resource for both the beginning reader and scholars of Burgess.

Coale, Samuel. Anthony Burgess. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1981. Not detailed, but contains good material on the author’s themes and technical innovations.

Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction 27 (Fall, 1981). This special issue gathers together seven critical essays on Burgess, some of which are appreciative—“Burgess is clearly in command of his material,” in reference to Earthly Powers—and others which are less favorable—“Burgess’ plots have a tendency to twitch and gyrate.”

Keen, Suzanne. “Ironies and Inversions: The Art of Anthony Burgess.” Commonweal 121, no. 3 (February 11, 1994): 9. An examination of the “Catholic quality” in Burgess’s fiction and nonfiction. Focuses primarily on Burgess’s novel A Dead Man in Deptford as well as on his autobiographies and literary criticism of James Joyce’s works.

Lewis, Roger. Anthony Burgess: A Biography. London: Faber & Faber, 2002. This sprawling examination of Burgess’s life, first published in the United States in 2004, is illuminating although sometimes chaotic. Instead of recounting the events of Burgess’s life as a chronological narrative, Lewis presents a more stylized, psychodynamic interpretation of Burgess’s personality and work.

Mathews, Richard. The Clockwork Orange Universe of Anthony Burgess. San Bernardino, Calif.: Borgo Press, 1978. An admiring monograph tracing the thematic and temporal concerns that led Burgess to write his futuristic novels, including A Clockwork Orange. Discusses ten novels that fit the metaphor of “clockwork universe.”

Morris, Robert K. Consolations of Ambiguity: An Essay on the Novels of Anthony Burgess. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1971. This early analysis of Burgess’s work discusses the thematic consistency of the Malayan trilogy, A Vision of Battlements, Nothing Like the Sun, A Clockwork Orange, and other novels.

Smith, K. H. “Will! or Shakespeare in Hollywood: Anthony Burgess’s Cinematic Presentation of Shakespearean Biography.” In Remaking Shakespeare: Performance Across Media, Genres, and Cultures, edited by Pascale Aebisher, Edward Esche, and Nigel Wheale. Houndmills, England: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Collection of essays describing how William Shakespeare has been “remade” in twentieth century screenplays, soap operas, music, documentaries, and other media. Includes analysis of Burgess’s novel Nothing Like the Sun.

Stinson, John J. Anthony Burgess Revisited. Boston: Twayne, 1991. Provides valuable biographical information and critical analysis of the later works. Particular attention is given to Burgess’s increasing reputation as a public intellectual and the use of language, the importance of moral choice, and the conflict between the Pelagian and Augustinian philosophies in his works.

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Critical Essays