Archive for February, 2009

Reading A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

February 23, 2009

I first read Anthony Burgess’s novel, A Clockwork Orange at the age of thirteen.


Thirteen is probably a really good age at which to read A Clockwork Orange for the first time. I’ve read it at least ten times since, probably more.

A Clockwork Orange is Anthony Burgess’s best novel – by best I mean the most entertaining, the most important (in terms of ideas, themes and messages), and the best written of all of his novels. I had a huge impact on me as a reader – and (shortly after reading it) as a writer. I aspire to writing anything as good, as incisive, as emotional, and as insightful as A Clockwork Orange.

Once I’d read A Clockwork Orange, I wanted to read other Anthony Burgess novels. Luckily, he has a tetralogy of novels about a character named Enderby – they are: Inside Mr. Enderby; Enderby Outside; The Clockwork Testament; and Enderby’s Dark Lady.


I bought all four novels in one volume – The Complete Enderby – and read them in a few days. They are wonderful stories – insightful, funny, scathing and profound.

Anthony Burgess is a clever, erudite, learned, skilled novelist. A Clockwork Orange is a joy to read, as is The Complete Enderby.

Anthony Burgess (1917-1993)

Try either of them. They’re both worth reading. A Clockwork Orange is, I believe, starting to get the recognition it deserves as a classic of English Literature. The Enderby novels are great fun – you won’t regret reading them.

Reading A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

© R J Dent (2009)


Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis

February 8, 2009

Franz Kafka


Franz Kafka is considered to be one of the 20th century’s most important writers.

His significant works (all of which are modern classics) include:

The Trial

The Castle


The Complete Short Stories

The Trial














The Trial is a novel, and it is a story of paranoid anti-bureaucracy. It was made into a film by Orson Welles. 


The Castle

The Castle














The Castle is also a novel and is another story of paranoid anti-bureaucracy.
















Amerika is also a novel that is a study in paranoia, but it is told in an uncharacteristically comedic style.


In many ways, although it is a serious novel, Amerika is also a comedy.


Short Stories

Short Stories














Of the short stories, Metamorphosis is probably the most important. It was adapted into a powerful play by Steven Berkoff.


After that, The Burrow, In the Penal Colony, A Hunger Artist, Description of a Struggle, and The Great Wall of China, are all worth reading.


There are also many letters, several essays and two diaries that are also interesting reading.


Franz Kafka is now considered to be one of the 20th century’s most important and significant writers.


If you haven’t read Kafka, try The Trial and Metamorphosis first, and then try any of the others.







Frank Zappa’s Guitar Music

February 5, 2009


Frank Zappa

There are several CDs of the guitar music of Frank Zappa. They are: Shut Up ‘n Play Yer Guitar; Guitar; Trance-Fusion, and The Guitar World According to Frank Zappa.













Shut Up ‘n Play Yer Guitar is a 1981 triple album featuring live material recorded by Frank Zappa between February 1977 and December 1980. The final track, “Canard du Jour”, is a duet with Frank Zappa and Jean-Luc Ponty dating from a 1972 studio session. The album is entirely instrumental and features twenty superb Frank Zappa guitar solos. The solos are interspersed with brief verbal comments between tracks. Each disc is titled after a variation on the album’s name, which is shared with the title track found on each respective disc. They are: Shut Up ‘n Play Yer Guitar:

Shut Up ‘n Play Yer Guitar Some More:

and Return of the Son of Shut Up ‘n Play Yer Guitar.














In 1998, Zappa released Guitar, a double album follow-up to 1981’s Shut Up ‘n Play Yer Guitar; and like that album it features a collection of Zappa’s guitar solos excerpted from live performances, most of which were recorded between 1979 and 1984. Guitar contains 32 stunning instrumental tracks and is superior in many ways to Shut Up ‘n Play Yer Guitar. For one thing, the music’s better – Zappa really shows his playing skills on Guitar. Also the mix and the sound quality are better than on the CD’s predecessor.














Then there’s Trance-Fusion, which is an album of guitar solos completed by Frank Zappa shortly before his death, but not released until 2006. Trance-Fusion has got some amazing guitar music on it, especially the first and last tracks.

Finally, there’s The Guitar World According to Frank Zappa:


They are all worth listening to – more than once. The music is sophisticated, emotional and very listenable. Give all of the albums a try, but start with Guitar – you won’t regret it.


Here’s the very beautiful Watermelon in Easter Hay from Guitar:



© R J Dent (2014)







Healer by F. Paul Wilson

February 3, 2009

One book that I read many years ago, and which has stayed in my mind and for some reason become indelibly stamped into my psyche, is F. Paul Wilson’s 1979 novel, Healer.

Here’s the 1974 edition, with the Hamlyn cover:

If I have to categorise Healer, then it’s a science fiction novel with a libertarian agenda, along the same lines as Anthem by Ayn Rand, although Healer is very different in plot and style to Anthem.

Here’s a quick plot summary (WARNING – only read the following four paragraphs if you want to know what’s going to happen in the novel):

It’s a routine planetary survey, and Steven Dalt is lucky not to have died in that cave on the planet Kwashi. After all, as the natives say, of a thousand people attacked by the cave-dwelling alaret, nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine will die. Dalt survives, but not without personal cost: he has picked up a passenger: an alien intelligence that transfers itself from the alaret to take up residence in his brain. Steven Dalt will never be alone again. But Pard, as Dalt names the alien who now shares his life, is no parasite. He pays his rent by using cellular-level consciousness to maintain Dalt’s body in perfect health – no disease, no aging.

As a result, Dalt quickly finds that he has enhanced perception, reflexes, and mental abilities, abilities received in a bizarre meld with the alien cave creature, a meld that would normally have killed a sentient life form. In Dalt’s case, his and Pard’s merging has made him/it/them superhuman. And now Dalt appreciates the full and true meaning of the Kwashi natives’ saying: Of a thousand struck down by an alaret, nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine will die – for he now realises that the thousandth will not die… ever.

At the age of two hundred and eighteen years, Steven Dalt migrates to Tolive, the notorious world of the neo-anarchists. From there he emerges with an altered perspective on life and a new identity as the enigmatic Healer – mankind’s only weapon against a psychological plague sweeping across the inhabited planets.

Spanning twelve hundred years, F. Paul Wilson’s Healer follows Dalt and Pard through the centuries as he/it/they become known as The Healer, an enigmatic figure with the power to cure diseases of the mind. And when a wave of interstellar slaughter threatens the civilizations of the LaNague Federation, only The Healer has the resources to face the oncoming danger.

Obviously I won’t give away the denouement – that really would spoil the novel for any potential readers.

There are several things that are interesting about this novel. The first is that it is based on a novella entitled Pard, which F. Paul Wilson wrote and published in the December 1972 issue of Analog. Expanded into Healer, it became F. Paul Wilson’s first published novel – and then a key novel in his LaNague series.

Here’s the 2005 edition with the Infrapress cover:

It’s a good story very well told – and for a first novel, it’s exceptional. I recommend this book to everyone. Try and find a copy – there are one or two on amazon:

I enjoyed Healer very much, and I think you’ll enjoy it too.

© R J Dent (2009)