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January 28, 1979 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 1979-01-28
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Page 6-Sunday, January 28, 1979-The Michigan Daily

The Michigan Daily-Sunday; Jar




At the Music





: Looking beyond Orwell

than Orwell,


a nastier


as evidenced

in his

book's conclusion, perhaps less genuine
By Andrew Kurtzman

By Anthony Burgess
Little, Brown, and Co.
272 pp., $8.95
A NTHONY Burgess is a clever man,
but just as often a glib man, and,
worse still, a glib writer. His style and
sensibility are sometimes brilliant, and
sometimes pedantic, needlessly obtuse,
or just plain crotchety. In addition,
Burgess is greatly concerned with the,
All these aspects of his art make
themselves quite apparent in his latest
effort, 1985, a modern "reply" to
George Orwell's 1984. 1985 alternates
between the caustically insightful and
the overbearingly pontifical (although
it employs ingenious language
throughout) and ultimately succeeds in
proportion to the reader's tolerance for
inconsistency - which may be part of
Burgess' intention.
Nearly half the book - the first hun-
dred pages plus an overly lengthy
epilogue - is an extended essay, partly

Orwellian thought to modern British
political developments, and continues
to point out flaws in Orwell's analysis,
eventually propounding Burgess' own,
which seems a fairly cogent set of
ideas. Yet the ultimate tone of 1985 is
uncomfortably close to that of a Norton
Critical Edition: one page of analysis
for each page of prose. Remember, too,
that both prose and analysis come in
this case from the same pen.
Many may call Burgess a pioneer in
his creation of a "tome-poem," or liken
him to Tolstoy in his straightforward
dealing with historical issues, but there
is ultimately little unity in this book.
Essayist and novelist seem to agree in
all the wrong areas. And when the final
bell sounds, the novelist has lost.
THE 137 PAGES that form the core
of Burgess' volume are a novel:
1985. Yet they often fail as prose,
having seemingly been infected by the
tone of the essays which sandwich
them. Briefly, the story is a description
of a negative utopia - "cacotopia," in
Burgess' parlance - in which unions
have overrun the British government,
and strikes paralyze the country. The
unions exhort the cause of "Holistic
syndicalism," that is, the day when
"every strike will be a general strike."
Men and women speak Worker's
English, rather than Orwell's
Newspeak. Burgess' alternate
language is English of the lowest com-
mon denominator. Hamlet's soliloquy,
rendered in Worker's English, reads:
"To get on with bloody life or not to,
that's what it's all about, really. Is it'
more good to get pains in your loaf.. ."
Since education is no longer sought by
the State, rebellious youths seek out
old-style teacgers to give them lessons:
"We go to school . . . we don't listen
to that crap they call sociology and
Worker's English. We sit at the back
and read Latin." These same youths
-rove in gangs and beat up old men for
their pocket money.
Here is Burgess being very pontifical
indeed, in his particularly glib way. In
his earlier novel, A Clockwork Orange,
he very neatly posed the insoluble
problem of a vicious youth who loves
rape and Beethoven equally, who, in
fact, sees no inherent contradiction in
his fancies. Yet in 1985 the toughs ex-
claim: "We're not sheep. :. we face a
life of crime and violence. Culture and
anarchy, I wish to Christ I could get
them to fit. Read Virgil and then rip
some guy up."
Burgess' brutal young humanists are
far too concerned with dialectic to be
believable, and represent the author's
dilemma far too baldly. In his con-
cluding essay, Burgess tells us, "To hell
with the little men'who try to stop-free

School, life is
o-ne big, audition
A SLIGHT horizontal movement
of Conductor Gustav Meier'sie r
baton has silenced the Univer- By Su
sity Symphony Orchestra, excepting
a few clarinets that twitter on until a
sharp glance from Meier cuts them off
as well. The orchestra has hit a snag out, at least for now, and at noon th
.only one minute into a rehearsal of -rehearsal ends. Amidst the jarrin
Wagner's Rienzi Overture, although screech of folding chairs, 100 student
Meier says the solo coronet entrance rise and scurry to their velvet-lined in
was "nice" and the entrance of the bass strument cases, which, open, resembl
and celli "much better." The problem ' '
rests wt h idtecaiesi small coffin. In fifteen minutes, the
rsswith the winds, the clarinets in reasl hall is empty.
particular, who have failed to agree on rehat evening, Meier is wearing tail
the exact pitch of a b-natural. The orchestra, decked out in tuxedo
"That b-natural is meaningless as Tk
you played it," Meier tells his students and long, clingy dresses, is seated o
as they lean in toward their music the stage of Hill Auditorium under th
stands, squinting at the tiny printed glare of stark white lights. Behind th
notes and passing their fingers silently orchestra stands a choir of ap
over the keys of their instruments. "I'm proximately 100 voices arranged in fou
not happy-there's too many b- tiers, the massive Hill Auditoriur
naturals." orgap pipes seeming to emanate fror
Meier raises his baton and the wind the singers' heads. When the audienc
section runs through the troublesome settles into their seats and the hous
passage several times, while the rest of lights dim, Meier begins the Rienzi.
the musicians lean back in their chairs, The orchestra is opening the thir
relaxing, for the moment. A violinist University Collage concert, an in
near the back of the section dusts some novative method of performance Meie
rosin off her skirt, and a percussionist introduced several years ago, in whic
hunts for a stiffer timpani mallet. diverse ensembles play directly afte
huns fr astifertimanimalet. each other, beginning their pieces or
Meanwhile, Meier has determined it is the final note of the ensemblE
the clarinets who are at fault. Patien- preceeding them. When the Rienzi is
tly, he has them repeat their part over finished the audience, comprise
and over while the rest of the orchestra larsedfgh ooludience chrs
patenlywaits, Finally, the clarinets largely of high school music teacher
patiently wis ialte"lrnt and their gum-cracking proteges, is
all hit the same b-natural, and the over- duly irand brts i
ture resumes. The strings barge in, duly impressed, and bursts itoap
bowing in unison, the rest of the brass plause despite the best efforts o
enter, and finally, the percussion fills another ensemble to play immdiatel,
out Wagner's expansive strains. following the overture. The audienc
There are several other trouble realizes, belatedly and bashfully, tha
spots-the coronets need to be more they have made a bit of a faux pas, an
"mellow," and a few of the pianissimos the applause is hushed.
are not pianissimo enough forH
Meier-but these flaws within the HE RESPONSE, however, wa
otherwise impressive sound are ironed not simply for a scant si:



Anthony Burgess

presided over the last two weeks, and
ten years-or-so of private lessons,
rehearsals, summers spent at music
camp, and ceaseless practicing.,
"It's hard to even imagine what goes
into it," says Mark Brandfonbrener, a
junior who is one of the top fewrcellists
in the Music School. "When I stop to
think about it. . . it's not just bowing a
string once; everything I've ever lear-
ned goes into bowing that string. And
even if I'm playing just a small part,
the entire orchestra is depending on 10
years of experience to play that part
Brandfonbrener began playing cello
in fourth grade, and has been dragging
the instrument to school and private
lessons ever since. Somewhere along
the line, he decided to become a
professional musician. Ideally, Bran-
dfonbrener and others like him-per-
formance - majors at the Music
School-plan to join professional or-
chestra, play chamber music
professionally, or, perhaps, become
soloists. But there is little call for
soloists or even professional orchestra
members, a fact with which Brandfon-
brener has wrestled. Despite its in-
spiring, creative qualities, music is a
tough business.
Those who even hope to enter the
world of performance must essentially
devote their lives to music. Many spend
nearly all their waking hours prac-
ticing, studying, trying to perfect their
bowhand, their embouchre-their art.
On the first floor of the School of Music,
which according to campus legend was
fashioned after a piano keyboard, are
three long corridors lined with cubicles
the size of small bathrooms. Each is

equipped wit
mirror, an up
and a music s1
These prac
soundproof; t
scales, and t
fragments of
out into the ha
can only be ca
of this perpe
prised of it
keyboard pas:
steady snare
register one h
of violins and
penetrated by
sound is like-
chestra tunin
but the din doe
The racket c
the evening a:
sessions, aver
eight hours
watch but the
own reflection
cessions of no
that become
music. On a
rooms someor
record of "hot
of pencil marl
record of day
etched into a f
the words "I
When their
slip, the music
rooms and re
where they s
bars, and slee
Cigarette butt:
as the conve
coming conce
what was ass
learning what
slightly, but th
See M

enquiry and the state is all that matters
and no one has a right to hear
Beethoven while the third world star-
ves." While we may admire his bravery
in coming out of the closet as a fighter
for Freedom At All Costs, we also find
that his powers of persuasion as a
novelist decrease as a result of his
The hero of 1985 is Bev Jones, the an-
ti-hero Mr. - Pettigrew - a pair
corresponding to Orwell's Winston
Smith and O'Brien. Bev loses his wife in
a fire due to a fireman's strike and
becomes an anti-union man. In 1985 the
union is the State; Jones steals, is
arrested, sent to a re-education camp,
tortured,- and, unbroken, sent to an
asylum where he teaches humanities to
a group of similar misfits. He has a
daughter with the mind of a seven-year-
old and the body of a twenty-year-old
(she is actually 13), due to the effects of
certain "Easy-Birth" drugs. (Here,
Burgess seems to be commenting that
there is a price to be paid when one
removes the invigoration of pain from
life; without evil there can be no good.)
JONES JOINS a band of freedom
fighters who are actually Moslems
attempting to undermine the union's
strangle-hold and establish their own.
As in 1984, the only available freedom is
entirely personal. The autocrats crave
power, asĀ°in Orwell's nightmare, but
only to further level society. Sex,
money and power have all been de-
valued; in a leveless society relativistic
values tend to wallow at the lowest
possible level. Brains are an unfair ad-
vantage. Everything is boring, dull,
changeless, and, as Jones- comments
concerning his retarded daughter,
"Home was anywhere so -loWg as there
was telly." In the face -of this ominous
evidence, do we need the ringing tone of
Author Omniscient to tell us, "Progress
won't come through dilution, everybody
being poof- together"? a

As a reply to 1984, then, 1985 is only
somewhat effective. Burgess is a more
than adequate psychologist; his point
that evei betrayal can be rationalized
is well-taken. With thirty years' advan-
tage, however, he can't help but be
more accurate concerning the im-
mediate political future of England and
the West. Yet Orwell's 1984 is not sim-
ply a prophesy; it is a parable about the
very immediate problems of tyranny,
and to this day remains remarkably ef-
fective in its portrayal of an individual
helpless before the massed minds of the
Burgess has a nastier imagination
than Orwell, but, as evidenced in his
book's conclusion, perhaps less genuine
toughness. There is a certain failure of
will in the suicide of Bev Jones,
humanist against the mediocre masses,
a romantic sense of hope that is belied
it (he very sordid morbidity of the act.
1he bullet that enters Winston Smith's
deadened brain in 1984 far .more
frighteningly expresses the terrifying
modern trend towards the
mediocritization of minds. There are as
many flaws in Burgess' fantasy as in
Orwell's, such as his scholarly totighs
and lax bureaucracies. Ultimately, 1984
stands up rather well to this modern on-
slaught. Yet it must be admitted that
for all its inconsistencies and ponderous
preaching, 1985 is an insightful, often
scary piece of writing. It does not
measure up to A Clockwork Orange, for
it has no unifying pathology, or even
narrative .thrust. Neither does it exceed
the art of 1984 since, rather than taking
the middle ground of a sociological
nightmare, 1985 attempts to cover
realistic, fantastic, and polemic bases
in one grand slam - and is thrown out
decisively at the plate. There is a very
witty, very nasty fantasy about the
future buried somewhere in this book.
Unfortunately, only -a fourth of it was


__ minutes of playing, but for the
Sue Warner is a Daily managing morning's rehearsal, and all the
editor. rehearsals over which Meier has

in the form of a dialogue, discussing
1984 and Burgess' own political and
social theories. He does his best to be
lively, but socio-political theory is
inherently dry fare, no matter how
compelling the literary sauce. The
book's first seventy pages are essen-
tially disappointing, nothing more,
really, than a well-written commentary
on George Orwell and his flaws. True,
they make a handy guide to 1984 (and,
subsequently, 1985), but Burgess might
have done better to presume a good
deal more knowledge on the part of his
readers, or at least had greater con-
fidence in their ability to pull theory
from prose.
The essay section of 1985 nicely ties
Andrew Kurfzman is a junior in
the Honors English program.

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