Anthony Burgess Centenary

This is the hundredth anniversary of the birth of John Anthony Burgess Wilson, whom we all know better by his middle names. He’s most famous for A Clockwork Orange, and even then maybe more famous for the Stanley Kubrick adaptation. In a more perfect world he would be equally well-known for Earthly Powers, his novel about someone suspiciously like W. Somerset Maugham, and Napoleon Symphony, a novel of Bonaparte taking its form from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, and A Dead Man in Deptford, about Christopher Marlowe. That was the last novel published during his lifetime, and we should all be so lucky to go out on such good work. Early in his career he wrote four novels in fourteen months as a sort of insurance policy for his wife. He had just been diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor; he didn’t die, but she did just a few years later. From there, he never really slowed his pace, publishing fifty books–not all novels–in slightly under forty years. His books on James Joyce are excellent primers to a difficult writer. And he composed music and he wrote screenplays. His is a remarkable body of work.

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